Nature heals itself: how England's salt marshes could save the planet

Nature heals itself: how England’s salt marshes could save the planet

02:57

Wallasea Island Nature Reserve, overlooking the Crouch River estuary in Essex, has become the UK’s largest salt marsh restoration project.

Managed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), it has become in a few years a crucial refuge for birds and other wild animals.

Although almost entirely man-made, the site has been designed with a variety of habitats to encourage a range of biodiversity. The landscape has now reverted to salt marshes, the farmland it became almost a hundred years ago.

Wallasea Island Nature Reserve has become the largest salt marsh restoration project in the UK.  /CGTN Europe

Wallasea Island Nature Reserve has become the largest salt marsh restoration project in the UK. /CGTN Europe

Wallasea Island Nature Reserve has become the largest salt marsh restoration project in the UK. /CGTN Europe

“All the material from the tunnels under London when Crossrail was built was brought in to create new habitats – so mudflats, salt marshes, leading up to the grasslands next to the dykes,” says Rachel Fancy, RSPB site manager . at Wallasea Island Nature Reserve.

“And it was placed in such a way that we could plan this whole suite of habitats with sea level in mind, so that all the plants could climb the slopes,” she adds.

READ MORE

The Bridge Builder filming China

Berlin airport reopened as refugee shelter

British MP urged to apologize for remark

Fancy saw the reserve prosper quickly during the eight years she worked there.

“All that vegetation, plants, insects, and all the other invertebrates that live in the mud came naturally,” she says. “And the birds have found it and so they also come to live here and feed here, especially at this time of year when they start to descend for the winter.”

“We have Brent Geese that descend from Siberia, you see the ones that feed on the salt marsh behind. Ducks like Widgeon and Teal, they will also feed on the seeds,” she adds. “Also, we have a lot of mud-feeding waders, they also came down from the North – things like the Knot, the Gray Plover, the Golden Plover. They can be in the thousands, each of those species.”

The salt marsh along the Essex coast is threatened by erosion.  /CGTN Europe

The salt marsh along the Essex coast is threatened by erosion. /CGTN Europe

The salt marsh along the Essex coast is threatened by erosion. /CGTN Europe

Much of the salt marsh along the Essex coast is threatened by erosion and rising sea levels, making this restoration project even more crucial. Trapped between land and seawater, salt marshes have unique biodiversity and can also benefit the wider environment.

“Beyond biodiversity, they can be really good at capturing carbon,” says Hannah Mossman, a senior lecturer in ecology at Manchester Metropolitan University, who has conducted extensive research on salt marshes.

“So when the tide comes in, it brings mud, lots of mud,” she explains. “And as the tide goes out, it leaves this mud behind. And in that mud, you have carbon, you have bits of detritus – lots of broken leaves – but you also have the plants growing there.

More than half of the UK's salt marshes have been lost in recent centuries, drained for agriculture and development.  /CGTN Europe

More than half of the UK’s salt marshes have been lost in recent centuries, drained for agriculture and development. /CGTN Europe

More than half of the UK’s salt marshes have been lost in recent centuries, drained for agriculture and development. /CGTN Europe

“And so this combination of the plants that are growing at these sites and the carbon that’s being brought in and the sediments that are accumulating means that the carbon is locked up and that means they can potentially mitigate some of our climate change.”

During his studies at another salt marsh, Steart Marshes in Somerset, Mossman discovered 18,000 tonnes of carbon stored in the sediments in just four years. The hope is that Wallasea Island will show similar results.

“It’s really exciting, because it’s bringing in these multiple benefits of salt marshes, so it’s created new salt marshes, it’s created new carbon storage, it’s created new flood risk prevention. And it’s created this amazing place for biodiversity,” she says.

More than half of the UK’s salt marshes have been lost in recent centuries, drained for agriculture and development. But given the success of the Wallasea Island project and the potential for environmental protection, conservationists now hope to create many more like this.

#Nature #heals #Englands #salt #marshes #save #planet

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *