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Manmade salt marshes have significantly reduced biodiversity

New salt marshes created as part of managed coastal realignment are failing to meet European conservation regulations, according to a new study by the University of East Anglia (UEA).

Under the EU Habitats Directive, new salt marsh must be created each time natural salt marsh is lost to coastal development or to coastal erosion caused by sea-level rise. The new marshes must display “equivalent biological characteristics” to their natural counterparts - but the new findings, published today in the Journal of Applied Ecology, reveal that artificially created salt marshes suffer significantly reduced biodiversity.

The study was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and carried out by researchers from UEA’s schools of Environmental Sciences and Biological Sciences.

‘Does managed coastal realignment create salt marshes with “equivalent biological characteristics” to natural reference sites?’ by Hannah Mossman (UEA), Anthony Davy (UEA) and Alastair Grant (UEA) is published online by the Journal of Applied Ecology on September 20 2012. The paper is available here.

IMAGE: Sea lavender (Limonium vulgare) is conspicuous on a natural salt marsh at Holkham, Norfolk. This species is one of those notably deficient in marshes created by managed coastal realignment. PHOTO CREDIT: David CJ White.