The best management practice for coastal vegetated shingle is to leave it alone. Shingle communities are slow to establish and are easily damaged by disturbance; without intervention, the natural processes of wind and waves will maintain the various stages from mobile to completely stable shingle.
Management of the habitat will largely involve management of public pressure since both walkers and off-road vehicles cause considerable damage to shingle habitat and heavy public pressure can lead to complete loss of shingle communities. Populations of the looping snail Truncatella subcylindrica, for example, have only been found where there is no obvious or significant physical disturbance of the gravel. Areas supporting the snail all lay within zones with partial or total access restrictions resulting from bird breeding enclosures. Where the gravel had been moved or disturbed the snail could not be found. Redistribution of beach materials for flood defences is also very damaging to specialist shingle invertebrates.
At Dungeness, the largest shingle foreland in Europe, gravel extraction has caused damage to large expanses of the site but this is no longer a continuing major problem since the area receives considerable protection under international law and operations are more restricted.
Maintain habitat diversity
A mosaic of habitats and high plant diversity will provide the widest range of habitats for invertebrate species, so it is important to ensure that full successional stages from bare shingle to short herbaceous vegetation and deep grassland are maintained. Seepage areas should always be treated as important. Shingle ridges are very important features, supporting different plant and animal communities at the ridge tops and in the hollows.
Maintaining large areas of unimproved flower-rich grassland next to coastal vegetated shingle will benefit rare bumblebee species such as the Brown-banded carder bee (Bombus humilis). Continue traditional management of cutting and grazing and leave patches of coarse vegetation over banks and slopes and hedge-banks on grassland next to coastal vegetated shingle. Tussocky vegetation will provide shelter for many invertebrates. It is also important to ensure that some grasses and flowering plants can set seed each year as the larval stages of some flies live in the flowerheads.
Prevent excessive scrub encroachment
Some scrub and stabilised grassland on shingle can be valuable, but excessive scrub encroachment on stabilised grassland may need controlling. Low scrub of broom and blackthorn supports considerable invertebrate communities and should not be cleared indiscriminately. Clumps of bramble can also be beneficial for bees, as can willow species.
Retain tide-swept debris
Management should aim to reduce public disturbance of drift material or the collection of driftwood and avoid any attempts to “tidy up” tide-swept debris, especially seaweed. The use of driftwood for beach barbecues is damaging.
Ensure unimpeded tidal patterns
Shingle features can show long term deterioration following the construction of nearby coastal defences. Coastal planning needs to be sensitive to these threats. Rising sea level is likely to mean that managed retreat of the coastline may need to be considered.
Oil pollution could be particularly damaging if oil was deposited onto shingle during a spring tide.