- On 13th May 2016
- In Ecology, Engineering, Water Management
- By William
Using Sediment As a Resource (USAR) is a European project with partners from The Netherlands, Belgium, France and the UK. The UK partners are the West Country Rivers Trust (WRT) and the Brightlingsea Harbour Commissioners (BHC). Exo Environmental acts as project manager and technical specialist for BHC
On Tuesday 12th May, Andy May, Conservation Manager for the Essex Wildlife Trust (EWT), kindly took time out of his busy schedule to take the USAR partners on a tour around the newly created wetlands at Fingringhoe Wick nature reserve.
With great public support, the EWT purchased this 83 acre site situated on the bank of the River Colne estuary back in June 2014, with the intention of undertaking a managed coastal realignment. Simultaneously, the project aimed to create and facilitate the development of important wetland habitats typical of the local area, including; freshwater reed bed, saltmarsh, intertidal mudflat and saline lagoons.
Already recognised at a national and international level on account of the rich biodiversity this area supports, the new wetlands will provide further sanctuary for wildlife, such as nursery grounds for marine fish species and nesting areas for Little Terns.
In addition to the environmental benefits of the project, it is important to also take into account the positive socio-economic impacts of such a development. Coastal habitats such as intertidal mudflat and saltmarsh provide a range of services through their ecological function, including, but not limited to; improved productivity of fishing grounds, physical and mental health benefits and education.
Coastal defence is perhaps the most discussed service these habitats provide. Through the attenuation and dissipation of wave energy, healthy intertidal mudflat and saltmarsh habitats provide a coastal buffer zone that can protect against erosion, storm surges and flooding. Their ability to grow vertically through sediment accretion can also allow them to maintain their ecological function with rising sea levels provided their growth rate is sufficient.
Coastal squeeze is a process whereby intertidal habitat loss arises due to the high water mark being geographically fixed by a man-made structure, whilst the low water mark migrates landwards as a result of sea level rise. What is particularly special about the new wetland area at Fingringhoe Wick, is the lack of a physical barrier to this natural landward migration of the saltmarsh. With pioneering vegetation already colonising the newly created habitats, and being located amidst the rightfully renowned marshes of East Anglia, this project has a promising future and it will be interesting to see the sites continual natural development over the coming years.
The new site will be open to members of the public later in the summer.