So far in Blue Planet 2, we’ve experienced the wonders of the deep, colourful coral reefs, the vastness of the open ocean, and the remarkably productive green seas. The penultimate episode of the series will focus on possibly the most challenging environment for marine fauna – our dynamic coasts. Along the coastline, two vastly different worlds collide – the terrestrial and the marine. The animals that live here are continuously pushed to the edge of their physical extremes, having to contend with the environmental pressures of two very different habitats. Coastal animals must also lead extremely competitive lifestyles, with intra- and inter-species competition for food, space and mating opportunities. I, therefore, believe that the upcoming episode focus on the trials and tribulations of coastal fauna in the face of environmental extremes and fierce competition.
Whilst studying at the University of Southampton, I’ve learned a lot about the ecology of our coasts, specifically that of sandy and rocky shores. During a field course to the Dale Peninsula in West Wales, we explored the challenges that coastal fauna face on a daily and seasonal basis – over-exposure to heat in rockpools during the ebbing tide forces crabs and other coastal invertebrates to take shelter under seaweed like bladderwrack; the high wave action of exposed shores can be rewarding in terms of food and oxygen supply, but also risky for animals without top adhesive properties; and the race for space in a competitive rocky shore environment leaves a distinctive, territorial pattern of limpet home-ranges across each boulder. During this week’s episode, expect to see similar stories of the daily life-and-death struggle of coastal animals, specifically those that live along diverse rocky shores and in vibrant rock pools; and, of course, lots of gorgeous time-lapse footage.
Since the coast forms such an important oasis for seabirds like puffins, sanderlings and penguins, I believe that the lives of seabirds will feature heavily in this episode. Penguins are obviously a fan-favourite, but the heartbreaking sequence on wandering albatrosses in Big Blue captured the public’s imagination too. Puffins are also marvellous birds, with incredibly strong wills – they must travel for miles to find food to feed their young that nest along the clifftops of the coast, dealing with challenges like battering weather and competition from other seabirds along the way. However, puffin populations are in danger, with many fledgelings suffering from starvation due to shifting fish populations and resultantly increased competition (yet another impact of a warming climate). Expect to see some seabird family drama in this weeks episode!
Coasts are also the closest and most accessible marine environment for us as humans – in the UK, you are never more than 70 miles from the sea. We have a close connection with our coasts, both socially and economically – many of us visit the beach regularly for surfing, sunbathing and rockpooling, but coasts around the world are also lined with industrial ports and fisheries. This human element of the coast is likely to be highlighted during the episode, most probably continuing the pattern of displaying human impact on the wildlife. Expect to see a sequence much like that seen in the final episode of Planet Earth 2, Cities, where the tragic story of light pollution impacts on Hawksbill turtle hatchlings unfolded.
Feel free to share any comments or questions regarding Coasts – I hope you enjoy the episode!