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The English Channel
Tappin, A.D.; Reid, P.C. (2000). The English Channel, in: Sheppard, C.R.C. (Ed.) Seas at the millennium: an environmental evaluation: 1. Regional chapters: Europe, The Americas and West Africa. pp. 65-82
In: Sheppard, C.R.C. (Ed.) (2000). Seas at the millennium: an environmental evaluation: 1. Regional chapters: Europe, The Americas and West Africa. Pergamon: Amsterdam. ISBN 0-08-043207-7. XXI, 934 pp., more

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Document type: Review


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  • Tappin, A.D.
  • Reid, P.C., more

    The English Channel is a marginal coastal sea located between the south coast of England and the northern coast of France. It is joined to the Celtic Sea (and hence the North Atlantic Ocean) in the west, and to the North Sea at its northeastern corner. Maximum depths range from 40 m in the east to 100 m in the west, extending to 160 m in the Hurd Deep. The most important factor influencing the occurrence, abundance and distribution of intertidal and marine plant and animal species is the temperature of the water column and its variation. The sensitivity of species to temperature may be enhanced as the Channel lies at the boundary of two biogeographical provinces, the warm Lusitanean and the colder Boreal. Other important factors for benthic species include bed characteristics and physical disturbance. The coastlines of France and England sustain a wide variety of natural habitats, including cliffs, rocky and sandy shores, shingle, dunes, salt marshes and saline lagoons. There are also a large number of estuaries, with freshwater inflow dominated by the River Seine. Extensive stretches of the coast are rural and support low-intensity arable farming. Interspersed along the coast are urban and industrial centres; the total population of the Channel coast is approximately 8 million, although this can increase significantly during the summer tourist season. The Channel is one of the world's busiest areas for shipping. The region also supports a commercially important fishery (both fish and shellfish) and is a nationally important region for sand and gravel extraction. Human activities on the coastal and marine environment have manifested themselves in a number of ways, including land reclamation, chemical pollution and fishing. These pressures remain palpable, although today a large number of national and transnational protective measures are in place. Indeed, natural factors may exert greater stresses on the coastline in the near future as the combined effects of sea-level rise and increasing storminess become more apparent. Within the last decade there has been a realisation that an important way to protect the coastline in a sustainable manner is for all parties with a stake in the coastal and marine environment to coordinate their activities within an ongoing economic, management and legislative framework. This Integrated Coastal Zone Management is being actively adopted within this region, and is likely to be the key to the long-term protection of the English Channel.

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