Wildlife needs help at coast

ROOM needs to be made for wildlife on East Anglia's coast to enable species to adapt to climate change, according to a new action plan.It calls for replacement habitats to be created for those likely to be lost to the sea and the better use of “soft” sea defences - including saltmarsh and mudflats - in flood risk management.

ROOM needs to be made for wildlife on East Anglia's coast to enable species to adapt to climate change, according to a new action plan.

It calls for replacement habitats to be created for those likely to be lost to the sea and the better use of “soft” sea defences - including saltmarsh and mudflats - in flood risk management.

Heather McMorland, spokesman at the regional office of Natural England, said: “It could involve buying land to enable habitat to move back but managed retreat should only be used where appropriate - without endangering homes.”

Natural England is one of the 20 east of England partners involved in the new action plan which sets out 61 action points which need to be pursued and which suggests the region's wildlife is at a critical “tipping point”.

“Given time and space many habitats and species can adapt to climate change. For the East of England, with its low-lying coastline, the impact of rising sea levels is likely to include increased flooding, erosion and coastal squeeze.

“We must make space for nature on the coast in advance of predicted habitat loss and use saltmarsh and mudflats as one solution to flood risk management within the wider social context. It is important to find solutions that are sustainable in the long term for both people and wildlife,” Ms McMorland said.

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Conservationists and planners say that it is no longer enough to just look after protected sites to prevent further loss of iconic species and habitat.

Some species such as the bittern, the fen raft spider and the dormouse are increasing in numbers, but there is a move away from concentrating on individual species and focusing on the whole region.

As a region the east of England is amongst the fastest growing and most intensively farmed, but also one of the most vulnerable to the impact of climate change. Being low-lying and relatively dry it is at risk from rising sea levels and drier summers.

The action plan details 61 action points to address the tough challenges facing the natural environment.

It includes the provision of public green space in hospital and school grounds and increasing the numbers of volunteers helping people enjoy the countryside.

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