The UK’s estuaries and coasts are incredibly valuable: as places to live, work, relax and play, and for the wealth of wildlife they support. They help protect us from flooding; they lock away carbon; they support our fisheries and they attract millions of visitors. In fact, it’s estimated that the value of the services provided by our coastal habitats is £48 billion.
A shrinking resource
However, our coastal zone is in trouble. It is shrinking. Our Sustainable Shores project has found that since World War II we have lost over 15% of our UK saltmarsh (around 8,000ha), 18% of our sand dunes (16,000ha) and 46% of our shingle habitat (5,000ha). These losses are largely down to coastal development and land reclamation. Worryingly, without action we will lose a further 3000ha by 2050 due to climate change and sea level rise.
In our Sustainable Shores project report, we set out how we can address these challenges through habitat creation and restoration, learning from our own experience at the RSPB. Over the last 25 years, we have been involved in delivering more than a third of newly created coastal habitat.
The report also makes a number of recommendations to UK governments and policy makers to ensure that our precious coastal habitats are protected and enhanced for the benefit of people and wildlife, now and for the future.