Wallasea Island Wild Coast Project
Area Type:UK, England
The Wallasea Island Wild Coast Project is in the middle of transforming this island into a magical landscape of marshland, lagoons, ditches and sea. More than 3m tonnes of earth was brought by boat from the tunnels and shafts created by the Crossrail scheme in London. This allowed the project to raise the land above sea level and place the soil in way that created a new 115ha intertidal area of saltmarsh, islands and mudflats. In addition, Crossrail helped to create saline lagoons, a creek network and grazing marsh. All of which means two-thirds of the arable farmland has been transformed into wildlife-rich habitat and a great place to visit.
- Habitat types: saltmarsh, mudflats, islands, saline lagoons, coastal grazing marsh<br />
- Fauna species reintroduced: Avocet and Spoonbill
- Description: The Wallasea Island Wild Coast Project is designed to provide valuable coastal wetland habitat both now and in the future as the climate continues to warm and sea levels continue to rise. It is the UK’s largest and most innovative coastal wetland creation project, and probably the largest ‘beneficial use’ scheme in Europe. The project has been delivered in partnership with the UK’s largest recent infrastructure project, the excavation of two 13-mile railway tunnels beneath London by Crossrail. It therefore demonstrates how industry and nature conservation can work together to deliver beneficial outcomes for wildlife on a landscape scale. The nature reserve created through the project will provide a range of benefits to society, including carbon sequestration, reduction in flood risk, increased human health & well-being through outdoor recreation, as well as providing nursery areas for commercially important fish species. Key elements of the design of the site have been: a) Using natural processes to create and maintain near-natural habitat through managed realignment; b) Mimicking natural processes using water level management. The latter is aimed at creating and maintaining permanent and temporary saline lagoons, and early successional saltmarsh. These are all habitats that are now rare along the coast of England, where dynamic coastal processes within the upper tidal range are usually constrained by the presence of fixed sea defences.
- Aim: The main aims of the project are to create new coastal wetland habitats of high value for wildlife, avoid the flood damage which would occur following any unmanaged breach of the existing seawalls on the island and create an extensive area of accessible coastal land for the quiet enjoyment of nature and open space.
- Vision: The project is designed to provide valuable coastal habitat both now and in the future as the climate continues to change and sea levels continue to rise. It will also provide a range of other benefits to society, including carbon sequestration, reduction in flood risk, increased human health & well-being through outdoor recreation, as well as providing nursery areas for commercially important fish.
- Accomplished in 10 years from now: Now that the main phase of habitat creation has been completed, we will now be managing the site and monitoring its developing fauna and flora. We will also be working with a Local Authority to promote and interpret the site’s maritime, scientific and natural heritage, including its resting place for Charles Darwin’s ship HMS Beagle.
- Uniqueness: It is the largest, and arguably the most innovative, coastal wetland recreation project in the UK, and probably the largest ‘beneficial use’ project in Europe. It demonstrates an innovative approach to adapting to climate change, and how nature conservation and industry can work together to benefit the environment.
- Results so far: Land Acquisition, collaborations, investment of >£50M GBP, completion of habitat restoration engineering work, acquiring national visibility and recognition and various other ecological outcomes.
- Flagship species: Other
- Other characteristics: Community involved, Eco tourism
- Inspirational value: Developing a collaboration between the UK’s largest coastal wetland creation project and the UK’s largest recent infrastructure project. Knowledge of how biodiversity develops in this innovatively-designed coastal wetland, including in its dynamically-managed saline lagoons.
- Experience you would like to share: The importance of working with stakeholders, communities and regulators, as well as the technical issues and planning required to develop and implement restoration plans which will be acceptable to, and supported by, the general public.
- Experience you would like to gain: Approaches to landscape-scale restoration, developing and selling visions, securing resources and approaches to managing project risk.