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University tool supports saltmarsh management

Places - saltmarsh-on-the-Solway-coast

The University of Exeter has launched a tool to help land managers assess the costs and benefits of reintroducing saltmarsh. Research by the university also demonstrated the positive impacts saltmarsh habitat has on the local and wider environment.

The study was undertaken by the university’s South West Partnership for Environmental and Economic Prosperity alongside partners from the North Devon Biosphere nature reserve. It provides an innovative framework for land managers and planners to appraise coastal land, fully capturing the benefits of saltmarsh for the local environment and economy.

Saltmarshes are an important habitat for a variety of wading bird species, a nursery ground for fish and can act as a natural flood defence. The framework could be used to prioritise sites for saltmarsh management or reinstatement and predict its impacts wider ecosystem benefits.

Despite these benefits, the habitat is in decline with over 100ha lost across the UK annually. Land development has played a key role in this decline and, as the UK looks to meet its current housing demands and deliver a pipeline of infrastructure projects, the potential for further saltmarsh loss continues. According to the university, land used for development is typically perceived as being of "higher value". However, if the wider environmental benefits of saltmarsh land was included in its valuation then its perceived worth may increase.

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