Solway Shingle beaches that are sufficiently stable enough to support perennial vegetation are a comparatively rare feature globally. In Scotland, there are an estimated 1,100 hectares of vegetated shingle, mainly located in Dumfries and Galloway, Morayshire and in the North West.
Vegetated shingle provides a very important habitat for a wide range of invertebrate species. In the UK, there are many species of invertebrate that are fully reliant and dependent on this habitat. It is however threatened by a number of natural as well as man-made influences such as natural mobility, disturbance, development, climate change and pollution. Vegetated shingle is listed as a UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UKBAP) priority habitat as well as being included on Annex 1 of the European Commission Habitats Directive as a habitat of international importance.
Scottish Natural Heritage commissioned Buglife to complete invertebrate surveys along the north Solway Firth coast in the summer of 2010 and 2011. Eight sites were surveyed for invertebrates by Buglife choosing sites to reflect the character of the coast and to ensure as wide coverage across the area as possible. The surveys focused on beetles, slugs, snails, bees, wasps and ants.
Altogether a total of 242 invertebrate species were recorded at the 8 sites surveyed, including 59 species of beetles, 15 species of bees, wasps and ants, and 40 species of slug and snail. Some of the amazing invertebrate species recorded included the Bloody nosed beetle (Timarcha tenebricosa), Copper sun jumper (Heliophanus cupreus) and the Blind agate snail (Cecilioides acicula).
Additionally, during 2011 a number of events were organised and attended in the local area. These events raised awareness of the importance of vegetated shingle on the north Solway Firth coast for invertebrates and to encourage others to study invertebrates in Dumfries and Galloway.
The star of the day at a ‘Meet the Bugs’ event held at RSPB Mersehead was the Rhinoceros beetle (Synodendron cylindricum) which had been discovered on the reserve earlier in the week. A bug walk held at Rascarrel Bay resulted in the discovery of Short-winged cone-head’s (Conocephalus dorsalis) in vegetation adjacent to the shingle beach, this is only the second record of this species in Scotland.