Thursday, February 16, 2012

Three-quarters of the Severn Estuary's mudflats could be lost to sea level rises

Graham Henry in Wales Online: Sea level rises of between 30-40cm in the Severn Estuary over the next 60 years could cause more than three-quarters of the estuary’s intertidal area to be lost, a new report has warned. In stark findings, The State of the Severn Estuary report warns that the impact of climate change could cause 77% of the zone – the area that is above water at low tide and underwater at high tide – to disappear over the next 100 years.

The rapid loss of intertidal areas could have knock-on implications for wildlife that feed on the mudflats and sandflats of the intertidal zone, such as wading birds and waterfowl, with the report warning that intertidal mudflats were of “major conservation importance”. It is coupled with a warning of repeated flooding in areas along the Estuary in the future if no action is taken, and current sea defences were not maintained.

Environment Agency Wales has previously warned that without flood defence improvements, rising seas could cause damaging floods to towns along the Severn Estuary by 2060, including Cardiff, Penarth and Newport.

Plans identified Lavernock Point in the Vale of Glamorgan ... at particular risk, while there are risk points identified all along the estuary to Gloucestershire, which includes around 250,000 homes.

The report – produced by the Severn Estuary Partnership and Cardiff University in collaboration with Environment Agency Wales – also predicts that 38% of vital saltmarshes could be lost in the next century as they become “squeezed” against flood defences....

Mouth of the Severn Lavernock Point is an atmospheric spot where wind, tide and Glamorgan meet. The view towards Somerset is that of a drowned land whose one-time hills now protrude above the surface of these waters as islands or project out into them as promontories. Shot by Alan Bowring, Wikimedia Commons via Geograph UK, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

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