Photograph: Crossrail / The Guardian
Wallasea Island to disappear
Global warming and rising sea levels are behind the the creation of Europe's largest man-made nature reserve, on the south coast of England in Essex. In anticipation of rising sea levels, the 400-year-old farmlands making up the island of Wallasea will have their dykes breached and tidal flow will flood the land into widespread lagoons. The lagoons will be re-dyked at higher levels to protect coastlines against rising sea levels. The higher dykes will utilize excavated material from beneath the city of London, which is building new transportation tunnels, stations and shafts. The 20-year project, which began in 2006, is the work of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. In addition to protecting a huge chunk of coastline from wave surge, the new mudflats, salt marshes and shallow saline lagoons will create huge benefits to wildlife, including birds. Species expected to return to Wallasea in big numbers are Avocet, Redshank, Lapwing, Brent Geese, Dunlin, Wigeon and Curlew. It will also draw new colonizing species such as Spoonbills and Black-winged Stilts (see photo below). Similar projects are located in West Sussex, including Medmerry. Low-lying coastlines world-wide should draw inspiration and insight from projects like Wallasea...the sooner the better.
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Black-winged Stilt photo by Steven Daly / Andalucianguide