It is a fact - most of Jersey is sea…
- Jersey at high tide = c. 117km²
- Jersey at low tide = c. 300 km²
- Jersey territorial seas = c. 2000km²
Offshore habitats on an offshore island…
The Island is situated at the junction of two vast ecoregions - one warm, one cool. Meaning local biodiversity, both on dry land and in the sea, is greatly enhanced. It enjoys some of the greatest tides anywhere on Earth, with 12+ metres of vertical movement between high and low water in less than six hours, around times of equinox. Leaning helpfully towards the sunshine, from the shadowy, upstanding north to the illuminated, gently sloping south - yields maximum growth potential from our star’s warming rays and drains numerous verdant valleys. For some, west is dynamic, edgy, the teeth of winter gales, undertow and rolling Atlantic swells. East by contrast is sheltered, French-facing, more forgiving and relaxed - as long as one pays due attention to one’s tide tables and Admiralty charts of course.
“On few coasts is there a richer fauna, both as regards number of species and number of individuals. Several factors contribute to this, such as the influence of the Gulf Stream, sunny skies, the constant scour of the great masses of food-laden water, passed continually up and down Channel, and finally, and most important, perhaps, of all, the greatest vertical rise and fall of the tide. At the great spring tides, this is forty feet and more, and one has but to reflect a moment upon the effect this must have upon a very gradually shallowing sea, to recognize the wonderful difference upon life in the littoral zone, compared with the comparatively insignificant rise and fall of twenty to twenty-five feet common in most British localities. Upon the south-east coast of Jersey, where this factor has most effect, a good spring tide exposes more than twelve square miles of rock-pools, tangle-covered reefs abounding in caves and gullies, shady Zostera prairies, and long stretches of shell-sand beach.” James Hornell 1893
“Ce que j'aime de Jersey je vais vous dire… j'en aime le tout!” Victor Hugo
While dwelling on the physical side of things, a few references:
Geology ~ tightly packed, world class
Archaeology ~ more evidence than you can shake a stick at
Climate ~ mild, well documented and changing rapidly
Sea Defences ~ historic, fascinating, but challenged
Horizon ~ on a good day, stretching to Alderney or Le Mont Saint Michel
The shores of the Normano-Breton Gulf are amongst the most valuable in Europe - fragile habitats home to an extraordinary mix of marine wildlife and human culture. The Bailiwick of Jersey lies at the very heart of a perpetually orbiting anti-clockwise tidal gyre, concentrating all things positive/negative and making our insular home a vital organ in the health of the wider English Channel. A good few of the seafood species we humans like to catch and eat when grown up begin their life as plankton in this important corner of La Manche, before migrating to deeper water as they mature. With shallow seas come elevated summer temperatures and many parents actively choose to spawn at the mercy of our fertile currents. Conversely winter can be harsh, plenty rivers on the adjacent coast of France flow full and the area cools rapidly - this is when massed flocks of shorebirds take up temporary residence. The seasons are very conspicuous, if you know where and how to look.
Visible signs of the abundance of life thriving on beaches and below the waves include; a full suite of coastal bird-life; one of the largest populations of bottlenose dolphins in Northwest Europe and what appears to be a healthy Atlantic grey seal population. Other notable sights include the ormer - archaeogastropod at a premium and mint sauce worms – easily overlooked uncommon oddities. Not forgetting bioluminescent ‘glow in the dark’ footprints – when in season.
Over 2000 marine species have been discovered around our small island, occupying their ecological niches across an astonishing mosaic of wildly diverse coastal terrain. We are well and truly shaped by the sea. Naturally, islanders have developed a long and complex relationship with the ‘other half of Jersey’ over countless generations. Logically, the seascapes surrounding Jersey speak volumes…
“On the great attractions of Jersey for the naturalist, one word will suffice: There is no such spot in England for marine zoology.” George Eliot