Humber Bridge. Image: Lee Beel
It is the wide variety of habitats and populations of birds which saw the Humber Estuary designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and a Special Protection Area (SPA).
The site is under threat from a range of pressures, including sea level rise, which is resulting in coastal squeeze and loss of intertidal habitat, and development. The Rivers Trent and Ouse converge and become the Humber Estuary at Alkborough Flats, where the flood bank has been breached to make space for water and so relieve the pressure downstream. Reedbed, saltmarsh and mudflats have been created, providing wildlife habitat and protection from flooding for people.
The Government’s National Ecosystem Assessment identified the financial benefits of this scheme which include £400,000 every year in flood protection benefits as well as production of food, fibre and habitat for 150 bird species, including the bittern, marsh harrier and avocet. Other ‘managed realignment’ schemes elsewhere on the estuary are producing similar benefits.