Estuarine and Tidal Wetland Restoration in the United Kingdom: Policy Versus Practice



Restoration of reclaimed marshes in the United Kingdom, referred to as managed realignment, is both a scientific and a political issue. A cross-party House of Commons report to Government stressed that provision of long-term sustainable coastal defenses must start with the premise that “coasts need space” and that government must work to increase public awareness, scientific knowledge, and political will to facilitate such a retreat from the almost sacrosanct existing shoreline. Government, in turn, has agreed with the basis of the report but is aware of conflicting interests, not least the European legislation, which has designated large areas of reclaimed marshes as Special Areas of Conservation that cannot legally be restored to their former tidal processes. Against this background, it is essential that scientific research provides convincing arguments for the necessity for managed realignment, the location, extent, and type of marshlands that need to be restored to provide sustainable flood defenses, maintain and enhance conservation status, and ensure a healthy functioning estuarine system. We examine the political and scientific issues involved, discuss model predictions and field experiments into realignment techniques, and outline the preliminary results of such experiments showing the evolution of restored intertidal wetlands in the United Kingdom.