Manmade salt marshes in the UK

Under the EU habitats directive, new artificial salt marsh must be created every time natural salt marsh is lost to coastal development or erosion caused by sea-level rise. New marshes must display “equivalent biological characteristics” to their natural counterparts.  Apparently this is not always the case.

Man-made salt marshes in south England have been created by relocating sea walls inland and breaching the old, outer walls to let the sea to flood in, creating a marsh. Many accidentally created salt marshes have formed when old sea walls collapsed and let in the sea.

While salt-tolerant (halophytic) flowering plants colonised artificially created salt marsh rapidly, the composition of these marshes was “significantly different” to natural marshes.

Sediment conditions in lower-lying areas were less oxygenated than those at the same elevation in natural marshes, the study said, and man-made marshes tended to be drier. The artificial sites tended to be flat and featureless with scrappy vegetation and patches of bare ground.

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