Wader flocks on The Wash Snettisham, Norfolk (RSPB) Wader flocks on The Wash Snettisham, Norfolk (RSPB)

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English east coast wetlands added to UK’s Tentative List of World Heritage Sites

ABPmer was commissioned to provide technical advice and prepare the application for the East Atlantic Flyway to be included on the Tentative List

The expanse of coastal wetlands that runs along England’s east coast, from the Thames to the Humber, has been added to the UK’s Tentative List of potential World Heritage Sites by the Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS).

To become designated as a World Heritage Site (WHS) by UNESCO, a site must be of “Outstanding Universal Value” which means that it is “so exceptional as to transcend national boundaries and to be of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity”.

The ‘East Atlantic Flyway – England East Coast Wetlands’ area is of Outstanding Universal Value because it includes a nearly contiguous complex of ecologically connected coastal wetlands that are remarkable, globally important and immensely diverse.

The area is also a significant global exemplar of coastal adaptation and nature conservation management in the face of a changing climate. It has world-leading examples of coastal adaptation projects achieving multiple public benefits including flood protection, habitat restoration, recreation, well-being, tourism, fisheries, water quality, and carbon storage.

In recognition of the coastline’s global value, a partnership of organisations – the RSPB, National Trust and Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust – was formed to further explore its suitability for nomination as a Natural World Heritage Site. This was endorsed by local authorities and The Crown Estate.

ABPmer was commissioned to provide technical advice and prepare the application to DCMS. ABPmer provided information on the social, economic values and ecological benefits as well as mapping and visual data presentation to assist with communication, partnership building and promoting the proposed nomination to stakeholders.

The nomination was made under ‘Criterion X’ of UNESCO’s ten selection criteria, recognising that the area contains “the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity” including “threatened species of Outstanding Universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.”

A map showing the indicative boundary extension for the East Atlantic Flyway, from the Thames to the Humber

Indicative boundary extension for the East Atlantic Flyway, proposed England East Coast Wetlands Natural World Heritage Site

An independent expert panel, coordinated by DCMS, recognised the application as an “interesting and ambitious natural heritage proposal” that delivered “a clear and convincing case for the potential to demonstrate Outstanding Universal Value”, both due to the global value for migratory birds using the flyway, and the opportunities the coastline provides “for the UK to develop and demonstrate best practice for coastal adaptation in a changing environment.”

Colin Scott, ABPmer Project Manager, said:

“We are delighted to see the east coast wetlands added to the UK’s Tentative List, and to have supported the submission. This will now enable a full proposal to be developed, alongside local communities and conservation organisations, for the site to join the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Becoming a Natural WHS would provide the east coast wetlands with international recognition. This will help with its long-term conservation, and with sharing the lessons of coastal adaptation at a global scale.”

Header image: Wader flocks on The Wash Snettisham, Norfolk. Courtesy RSPB

A leading specialist in marine and coastal habitat creation, restoration and protection, ABPmer helps governments and organisations realise initiatives to redress biodiversity decline, offset habitat loss and improve the resilience of coastlines through proven adaptation methods, including managed realignment, sediment beneficial use, and reef formation.

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