The Steart Marshes habitat creation project restored 480 hectares of farmland to a mosaic of biodiversity rich wetland habitats including intertidal mudflats, coastal saltmarsh and floodplain grazing marsh, making it the largest wetland habitat creation project in southern England.
The works on Wildfowl and Wetland's Trust first new reserve this century served three purposes: to conserve and protect rare inter-tidal habitat and species, to passively improve flood protection to local villages through water and to engage with local communities about the importance of wildlife protection.
To that end, a major wetland reserve has been created to the benefit of wildlife and people. Amongst the highlights for wildlife were the creation of 7km of new ditches suitable for water voles, the construction of five new badger setts, the planting of 30,000 trees, shrubs and aquatic plants and new raised mounds that have created ideal nesting and roosting sites for ground-nesting waders and wintering wildfowl. Within a year of the project's completion waders such as avocet, little ringed plover and oyster catcher have begun to breed on the newly-created wetlands.
The flood protection of both the immediate surrounding area and broader reaches of the Severn Estuary has been improved. Annually the new saltmarsh traps an estimated 700 tonnes of carbon and the reserve provides approximately £900k of eco-system services. The local community has been fully engaged with the creation of and actively managing the reserve. This engagement, which has included learning new skills and health benefits, has provided a strong platform for broadening involvement to more members of the local community that we are now capitalising on.
A spokesman for WWT said "Without Viridor Credits' funding and support we could not have achieved the many benefits for biodiversity and people that have already been realised by this project. Viridor Credits' support helped attract other funding for this project. From supporting our opening event to including our project in publications, Viridor Credits have helped us to maximise the excellent communication potential to our stakeholders and the general public that this project has provided. "