An innovative saltmarsh restoration trial in Chichester Harbour has attracted Government interest. Chichester Harbour Conservancy, the Environment Agency and the Solent Seascapes Project, met with Thérèse Coffey, Secretary of State for the Environment, on Wednesday 2 August to explain more about the project, and view the first shoots of glasswort (a pioneer saltmarsh plant species) colonising the site.
In 2021 a Natural England condition review found that saltmarsh in Chichester Harbour has declined by 58% since 1946. To help halt the decline Chichester Harbour Conservancy is leading a partnership initiative focussed on nature protection and recovery. The saltmarsh restoration trial at West Itchenor, which began in February 2023, has pioneered a technique for using sediment dredged within the harbour. The project used this sediment to raise the height of an area of shoreline with the aim of allowing saltmarsh plant species to colonise.
Matt Briers, CEO of Chichester Harbour Conservancy:
“Chichester Harbour is one of the most important sites for wildlife in the UK and our saltmarsh is amongst our most precious of habitats. We were pleased to welcome the Secretary of State to visit our saltmarsh restoration trial site and encouraged by the importance she places on protecting and restoring this habitat.”
The Rt Hon Thérèse Coffey MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs:
“The Saltmarsh Restoration Trial in Chichester Harbour is an innovative and exciting approach to nature recovery. Saltmarsh is declining at an alarming rate; it has been inspiring to see this groundbreaking initiative to restore a habitat which is so important in storing carbon and mitigating climate change.”
Saltmarsh loss and degradation in Chichester Harbour is partly due to “coastal squeeze”, where hard structures and sea defences prevent the natural movement of sediment in the harbour and cause erosion of the saltmarsh. Climate change and sea-level rise pose additional threats.
With the first stages of the saltmarsh restoration trial now complete, the site will be carefully monitored to gauge the success of the technique, to inform future saltmarsh restoration projects.
More about the trial and Chichester Harbour Conservancy’s work to protect and restore saltmarsh is available at www.chapron.org.uk.