WWT is set to nearly double the total area of land it looks after for nature after agreeing to manage Bridgwater Bay National Nature Reserve.
Bridgwater Bay NNR, owned by the Environment Agency and Natural England, is one of the largest areas of intertidal mudflats in Britain, and is an internationally important feeding and roosting site for many migratory waterbirds.
The lease will add more than 2,600 hectares of land at the mouth of the River Parrett and Brue to the combined total area managed by WWT, featuring areas of intertidal mudflats, shingle ridges, floodplains and the largest area of saltmarsh in Somerset.
The site is also the largest UK moulting ground for Shelduck, and the second largest in Europe. Every July as many as 4,000 of this colourful species flock to the site, shedding and replacing flight feathers before their migration Eastwards.
WWT will seek to improve the management of hedgerows and ditches across the site, also allowing cattle to graze on the saltmarsh, encouraging colonization of plant species that had previously been lost from the site.
It is hoped that changes like these will also lead to the spread of wetland species currently in low numbers from the site including water voles and great crested newts, while also supporting the area’s resident population of rare Great silver water beetles.
Alys Laver, site manager at Steart Marshes said:
We’re excited to take on the stewardship of this immense reserve with the support of Natural England. We plan to make the site more hospitable to our native plants and animals while also reaping the benefits that wetlands provide to human wellbeing and carbon capture.
We will also be managing Bridgwater Bay with other nearby sites in mind, taking a landscape scale approach to conservation and enabling the whole peninsula to be managed with climate change, sea level rise and the movement of different species in mind.
Senior Reserves Manager at Natural England Julie Merrett added:
As part of the declaration of the Somerset Wetlands ‘super’ NNR, we are committed to using our combined resources more effectively.
Natural England has worked with WWT to move the operational management of Bridgwater Bay to them; who, with their nearby site base and fantastic local team, are best placed to give the reserve the on-site presence and close attention that it deserves.