Low Water on the Rocky Coast is Life-Changing.....

Dr Keith Hiscock, an old friend of Coastwise, returned to begin our new season with a superb talk on 'Low water, the life-changing divide?'

The title reflected not only the different forms of life that occur on various parts of the shore, but a life-changing experience on the shore at Ilfracombe when Keith was in his youth. That moment set him on his path to becoming a renowned marine biologist.

Keith (seen here with Paula Ferris) told us of finding the books of the Victorian naturalist Philip Henry Gosse in the Ilfracombe library. He discovered that the animals listed by Gosse in Devon locations in the 1850s were still present a hundred years later - and indeed right through to today. That said, the warming of the sea off North Devon seems to have caused the arrival of such species as Brown Forking Weed.

The talk was magnificently illustrated by Keith's own photographs. During the Q&A, Keith questioned the logic of the criteria used by Natural England in evaluating data in support of proposed Marine Conservation Zones. For example, surveys done six years ago were accorded a lower degree of 'confidence', and twelve year old surveys even less. However, as his talk had shown, rocky shore marine populations have generally remained remarkably constant where not aggressively predated by man.

This stimulating and beautifully delivered talk introduced many of the audience to a splendid new word: 'inquilinism'. This is a type of symbiosis in which one species, the inquiline, makes use of a host's nest or habitat without causing any detriment to the host.

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