Tracer Pebble Studies

The Eastern Solent Coastal Partnership (ESCP) have developed an innovative method of using tagged tracer pebbles to track the movement of sediment along our beaches. By deploying and tracking these pebbles, we are able to collect valuable information on rates, direction and the patterns of littoral drift within an area of interest. This helps us to better understand local coastal processes, which in turn, supports local coastal management decisions, aids coastal defence scheme design and informs local beach maintenance activities, such as recycling and replenishment campaigns.

Click on the map below to find out more about where the Tracer Pebbles have been deployed around our coastlines

GosportTracerFarehamTracerPortsmouthTracerHavantTracerriver hambleRiver Hamble to Portchester StrategyPortsea Island Coastal SchemesEastoke Sectoral Strategy

Coastal map

How could this method help you?

Key Facts

  • The method confirms the local scale sediment transport pathways which directly affect the movement of material along the beach frontage;
  • The tracers are not visible to the naked eye and therefore are less prone to disturbance from beach users;
  • The results provide a powerful tool to aid Beach Management Plans and the location of beach control structures;
  • The tracer tags use no power and can be left in the field for long periods of time;
  • Clearly presented results are a powerful tool for explaining sediment transport to council members and the general public;
  • The vertical detection range of the antenna can be up to 1 m, which enables buried tracer pebbles to be identified;
  • The results have already proved useful in discussions with various stakeholders around the frontage, and the study has received widespread support and interest from Councillors and the public alike.
  • After initial deployment a number of retrieval surveys are conducted over a period of weeks, months and years to allow long-term trends in sediment pathways to be identified;
  • Average detection rates over a two week period are approximately 72%, with more than 95% of all tags being detected more than once;
  • After 5 months in the field tracers can disperse along 3 kilometres of beach.

Further Information

 There is growing interest in the method, with future tracer pebble deployments along the south coast of England being co-ordinated by SCOPAC (

For more information on Tracer Pebbles, please contact the ESCP on