Important UK Wildlife Sites Damaged by Floods
The recent flooding events in December and January have damaged a number of protected wildlife sites around coastal Britain through the subsequent tidal surges. The full scale of the impact is still not fully known.
A report detailing the impact on protected sites has been drawn up by Natural England with help from the Environment Agency and other bodies. The report concludes that “at least 48” Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) in England have been affected by flooding, of which 37 are of international importance. In addition, the RSPB reported that a number of Nature Reserves had also been affected by the flood water to varying degrees and there was significant damage at the Snettisham reserve in Norfolk.
Otters, seal pups and birds are among the animals directly impacted by the tidal flooding and there are long-term fears for the loss of coastal habitats. One of the greatest concerns is for the future of rare freshwater habitats close to the coast. Breaches in the sea defences have enabled saltwater to flow into these ecosystems and until these can be repaired the sites will receive regular saltwater flooding which will alter the entire ecosystem. It is hoped that the natural resilience of many species will aid recovery, although much is still unknown.
With government funding under pressure, the issue of prioritising which defences should be repaired and which should remain breached has become controversial and research into the impacts of the flooding continue in order to try and reveal exactly what damage the flooding has caused.