The iconic Humber estuary is one of the most important natural features and conservation sites in the UK. However, the estuary’s conservation status was downgraded to unfavourable condition by Natural England in 2012, attributed to habitat loss and commercial development, which resulted in the decline of precious habitats, such as sand dunes, saltmarsh, seagrass, and native oysters.
These habitats are critical for marine biodiversity. For example, seagrass provides rich nursery habitats, breeding and feeding grounds for a vast array of species, including shore crabs, juvenile flatfish, bass, brent geese and other wading birds. Sadly, extensive seagrass loss has occurred in UK waters during the last 100 years, with recent research estimating that at least 44% of the UK’s seagrass has been lost since 1936, of which 39% has been since the 1980s.
In efforts to reverse these major declines, the Wilder Humber programme is trialling a “seascape-scale” model, combining sand dune, saltmarsh, seagrass, and native oyster restoration to maximise conservation and biodiversity benefits across the estuary. The aim of the programme is to restore and enrich nearly 40 hectares of protected habitats and rebuild the Humber’s lost native oyster population to over half a million. 30 hectares of the overall 40-hectare ambition will focus on restoring lost seagrass meadow at Spurn Point, another key target for Wilder Humber.
In addition to spearheading the restoration works, Wilder Humber will also work with local communities to tell the story of the restoration journey through community events and school engagement visits and provide volunteering opportunities to contribute to wildlife conservation in the Humber estuary.
To celebrate the launch of Wilder Humber, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust is hosting a free community event at their Spurn Discovery Centre on Saturday 22nd April. From 10am to 4pm, join the cross-county restoration teams to learn how oysters help to clean our seas, investigate how seagrass seed bags are created before they're planted in the estuary, and book a free place on the famous Spurn Safari. Tickets are also available on the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust events page for exclusive evening talks (6pm-8pm) from our restoration officers, who will explain more about their exciting Wilder Humber work and give an opportunity for a Q&A.
For more information about the community launch day and where to book free tickets, please visit www.ywt.org.uk/events
Rachael Bice, Chief Executive of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, said:
“The time has come for bigger, bolder action on seascape and seagrass restoration, following good results from our earlier trials. This pioneering programme delivered by an exciting partnership is a crucial step forward. We expect to see huge improvements to water quality, richer marine habitat providing a better home for more birds, seals and fish across the estuary and beyond.”
As a global leader in offshore wind, Ørsted has set an industry-leading ambition that all new renewable energy projects it commissions from 2030, at the latest, should deliver a net-positive biodiversity impact. Through collaboration with the Trusts, Wilder Humber programme will provide a foundation for Ørsted’s biodiversity ambitions.
Benj Sykes, Head of Environment, Consents and External Affairs at Ørsted, said: “The diversity of life on planet Earth is our natural life-support system, but it’s being lost at an alarming rate. Climate change is accelerating this trend and it’s vital we address the global climate and biodiversity crises urgently. At Ørsted, we firmly believe that we can find ways to increase the build out of much-needed renewable energy whilst delivering a positive impact on nature. Through collaboration with conservation and restoration experts, like The Wildlife Trust, we want to pioneer biodiversity projects that will make a real and lasting difference. Our partnership with Lincolnshire and Yorkshire Wildlife Trusts is a major step towards that ambition in the UK.”