Wildlife Floods to Wetlands

Article excerpt

IT CAN be a wonderful, picturesque place that we enjoy but the environment can also present problems.

Flooding can threaten homes and businesses, as well as habitats.

But rather than trying to hold water back, the Environment Agency, which monitors water levels in rivers and seas and in some areas can warn people if a flood is about to happen, is coming up with alternative solutions.

It has been overseeing a programme of rural projects in Northumberland which work with natural processes such as the tides to address flooding, while also restoring habitats like saltmarsh.

Environment Agency staff have been working with landowners and farmers to remove some flood defences where it may be beneficial to allow water to find its own path.

The proposal to remove sections of floodbank was seen as controversial, but the Environment Agency and Natural England engaged the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group to float the idea with landowners and farmers in the area and the positive response provided the momentum for the programme. The Environment Agency's Local Levy programme has seen various projects come to light.

The River Till Wetland Restoration Project is led by the Tweed Forum, and has worked with farmers and land managers to find a sustainable approach to flood management by returning land to the natural floodplain, changing management practices and allowing the development of wetland habitats.

The Till Project's first major scheme was on three farms in the Fenton Floodplains; a system of more than 22km of floodbanks that have restricted the natural floodplain of the River Till in this area of low-lying fertile farmland for the past 60 years.

The three farms of West Fenton, Nesbit and North Doddington are on the northern edge of Milfield Plain, 20km south of Berwick.

The project enhanced 150 hectares of land by abandoning or breaching 6,700m of floodbank. This includes 73 hectares of new or restored wetland habitat, the reconnection of 85 hectares of active floodplain and 5,700m of riverbank brought under positive management.

The wetlands now support a rich variety of plants and animals, many rare or threatened. These include waders such as lapwing, snipe, redshank and curlew, wildfowl such as pink foot and greylag geese, widgeon and teal, and mammals such as otter, water vole and water shrew. …