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10/09/2007

Back to nature: British plan to let sea flood reclaimed land

The coast around Wallasea island was reclaimed over several centuries. Photograph: Graham Turner

Britain
Conservation experts are to reverse five centuries of British history and deliberately allow rising sea levels to flood a huge stretch of reclaimed Essex coastline. In the most ambitious and expensive project of its type, the RSPB intends to puncture sea defences around Wallasea island, near Southend, and turn 728 hectares (1,800 acres) of farmland into a mosaic of saltmarsh, creeks and mudflats - making mainland Britain just a little bit smaller. Generations of farmers have worked the land there for 500 years, since Dutch settlers first built a wall wall around the remote strip of coast; the RSPB wants to transform the area into a wildlife reserve. As the sea returns, so should otters, wild plants, fish and birds, some of which have not nested in the UK for more than 400 years. " We will be restoring habitats that were lost more than 400 years ago and preparing the land for sea level rise. This is land that was borrowed from the sea that now the sea is reclaiming." Similar projects are under way in Germany, the United States, Denmark and Holland.
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