Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust and its opposite number in Yorkshire are to work with renewable energy company Ørsted to launch Wilder Humber – a five-year environmental programme to restore marine habitats and species throughout the Humber estuary.
The estuary is one of the most important natural features and conservation sites in the UK, but its 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 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.
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.”
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.