Sunday, October 7, 2007

Letting the sea reclaim land

Guardian: Conservation experts are to reverse five centuries of British history and deliberately allow rising sea levels to flood a huge stretch of reclaimed Essex coastline. In the most ambitious and expensive project of its type, the RSPB intends to puncture sea defences around Wallasea island, near Southend, and turn 728 hectares (1,800 acres) of farmland into a mosaic of saltmarsh, creeks and mudflats - making mainland Britain just a little bit smaller.

Generations of farmers have worked the land there for 500 years, since Dutch settlers first built a wall around the remote strip of coast once claimed by King Canute; the RSPB wants to transform the area into a wildlife reserve. As the sea returns, so should otters, wild plants, fish and birds, some of which have not nested in the UK for more than 400 years.

Graham Wynne, RSPB chief executive, said: "Wallasea will become a wonderful coastal wetland full of wildlife in a unique and special landscape. We will be restoring habitats that were lost more than 400 years ago and preparing the land for sea level rise. This is land that was borrowed from the sea that now the sea is reclaiming."

The £12m scheme is the largest of its type in Europe. It will see a series of low-lying walls built across the flat arable farmland, followed by a gradual reintroduction of limited amounts of sea water….

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