The Flamborough Head SAC protects Europe’s most northerly outcrop of coastal chalk
The numerous sea caves, unique chalk reef and extensive vegetated sea cliffs around Flamborough provide important habitat for a wide range of wildlife. The unique geological features of the headland and the rich waters of the North Sea – nourished by the meeting of two currents, known as the Flamborough Front – draw seabirds and other marine species to the area each year.
This internationally-recognised designation forms part of the Flamborough Head European Marine Site (EMS) alongside the Flamborough and Filey Coast Special Protection Area.
2022 Flamborough Head EMS Annual Report
How is the protected area managed?
The protected areas around the Flamborough and Filey coast are managed by a partnership of organisations. These organisations, known as Relevant Authorities, have a legal duty to uphold the protection afforded to our important species and habitats. Working together, the eleven Relevant Authorities and a core group of other key partners, share their expertise and resources to provide proactive management to the Flamborough Head EMS.
Many activities, such as fishing or developments, which take place around the Flamborough Head SAC are licensed by individual Relevant Authorities. When issuing permissions or licences, the Authority must take into account any potential impacts on the protected area. Non-licensable activities, such as recreational activities, are jointly managed by all Authorities.
The Relevant Authorities have agreed a five-year Management Plan for the Flamborough Head EMS (including the SAC). The Management Plan describes the importance of the site, the activities which are known to take place within the boundaries of the protected area, and the active or planned management for each of those activities.
2022 – 2026 Flamborough Head EMS Management Plan
Features of the SAC
The unique geological features of Flamborough were first designated in 2005. It was recognised that the combined influences of geology and the North Sea created a diverse and internationally important habitat for a wide range of marine and coastal species, which are reliant on the chalk rock. South of Sewerby cliffs, glacial till and clay become dominant as the chalk retreats inland, creating the Yorkshire Wolds.
Comprising of horizontal ledges, vertical walls and broken rock, the harder chalk on the north side of the headland has created a reef habitat which supports a different range of species from those on the slightly softer southern side of the headland.
The kelp and seaweed habitats that thrive on the chalk reef are incredibly diverse, providing shelter and food for a wide variety of animals and plants, including commercially-important species like crabs and lobsters.
Flamborough has a greater number and wider variety of cave habitats than any other chalk site in Britain. Thanks to the continued wave action of the North Sea and the unique geology, there are more than 300 caves around the site.
The cave systems are important because of the species which live in them. Whilst limpets and periwinkles dominate most caves, a type of sand-concreting tube worm has only been recorded in caves around North Landing and Thornwick Bay.
Vegetated Sea Cliffs
The hard chalk cliffs of Flamborough Head host important calcareous cliff vegetation. Due to the prominent location, Flamborough’s cliffs are highly influenced by both salt spray and the underlying chalk geology.
This maritime influence allows sea cliff species, such as thrift and sea plantain, to grow alongside herbaceous species like kidney vetch. Towards the eastern end of the site, the glacial till deposits support acidic grassland communities.
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