Steart Marshes

Wild, large scale working wetland landscape safeguarding the future of wildlife and people, and working with nature to tackle climate change 

RS41278 WWT 180913 0024 hpr

At a glance

Location

Steart, Somerset

Area

1,157 acres

Start date

2014

Scale

Marine

Habitats

Wetlands (including peatlands and marsh), Intertidal marine (including salt marsh, mud flats) and Marine

Key species

Otter, Avocet, Marsh Harrier, Owls and Egrets

Rewilding actions

Habitat restoration, Natural regeneration and Reduction in grazing

Engaging people

Volunteering, Tourism and Education programme

Steart Marshes is the first of Wildfowl and Wetland Trust’s working wetlands. Through coastal realignment, new saltmarsh habitat has been created to provide natural flood management, carbon storage and high quality opportunities for wildlife.

Saltmarshes, mudflats and freshwater grazing marsh provide excellent opportunities for a range of wildlife, including Avocet, marsh harrier, otters, egrets, owls, waders and wildfowl. Black-winged stilts successfully bred for the first time in 2020 in the freshwater area of Stockland Marsh, which is very unusual for the UK. This species usually breeds in the Mediterranean! The tidal creeks provide shelter for fish fry, including commercial species such as Sea bass . Since managed realignment works in 2014, wildlife has flourish on site.

The site also functions as a working wetland, its saltmarshes are protecting businesses and homes from rising sea levels and the increased risk of coastal flooding as a result of climate change. Sediments and vegetation also help to store carbon, reducing carbon in the atmosphere. It’s estimated that around 30,000 tonnes of carbon have been buried on the site since its restoration (Manchester Metropolitan University).

NATURE BASED ENTERPRISE

Fencing has been installed for visitor management, and visitor donations help to fund the project. A wildlife walks and talks programme has been introduced to also provide additional finance, whilst improving opportunities for people to reconnect with nature.

Whilst grazing numbers have been reduced on the site. meat continues to be produced. Local graziers benefit from selling meat at a premium due to its enhanced quality and flavour from salt marsh grazing.

KICK-STARTING REWILDING

A reduction in intense grazing and farming practices compared to previous land management on the site has resulted in a more diverse vegetation structure. A mixed grazing regime using local graziers, to include longhorn cattle, Dexter cattle, Friesian cattle and low numbers of Rutland sheep.

Natural regeneration was encouraged on the site through a reduction in grazing and with supplementary planting, including scrub and hedgerow planting. Wetland creation was also undertaken to restore mudflat habitats and saltmarshes on the site. As well as a freshwater area which transform to a lake for wintering birds as well as storing additional flood waters helping to reduce pressures on the ditches which function as flood alleviation for surrounding land and properties.

Some management continues on site, including water level management with tilting weirs and stop-logs. This aims to maintain saline and freshwater lagoon habitats and important opportunities for breeding and wintering waders and wildfowl.

Community involvement was central to the project planning, with a mixture of consultations and face to face discussions taking place. This was important to ensure that the proposals on site were in accordance with local needs, and many volunteers on site live within local communities.

Images: WWT

Gallery

RS41421 WWT 180914 1833 hpr
RS41370 WWT 180913 1251 hpr
RS33447 WWT 150828 0016 hpr
RS33443 WWT 150828 0001 hpr
RS24867 WWT 140908 1054 hpr

Future Plans

  1. 1 Continue biodiversity monitoring, carbon storage, water quality, hydrology co-ordinated by WWT in collaboration with multiple universities
  2. 2 Continue to be a major part of the EA shoreline management plan for Severn Estuary

You may also be interested in…