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Guidance: Restoring estuarine and coastal habitats with dredged material

The Environment Agency has published a practical guide for beneficially using dredged sediment for estuarine and coastal habitat restoration.


The ecological, societal, and economic benefits of estuarine and coastal habitats, and the threats they face from a changing climate and rising seas, have become more widely recognised over the past decade. This means that habitat restoration is becoming a priority for government agencies and the general public.

One way of restoring vulnerable coastal marine habitats is to ‘feed’ the intertidal areas with introduced sediment. This is especially valuable where habitats are eroding, sinking or subject to coastal squeeze. Such ‘recharge’ schemes may use excavated sediment that is derived from dredging activities in ports, harbours and marinas (thus providing a 'beneficial' use for this material).

There is no shortage of available dredged sediment that could be suitable for habitat restoration because several million cubic meters are dredged every year. The challenge is, and always has been, understanding how to make best use of this vast resource. 

Colin Scott, habitat restoration and creation specialist at ABPmer, worked with the Environment Agency and Cefas to produce ‘Restoring Estuarine and Coastal Habitats with Dredged Material’.

Supporting the goals of the UN ‘Decade on Ecosystem Restoration’, the handbook is aimed at policymakers, nature conservation bodies, local communities, anyone interested or involved in dredging, coastal management and ecosystem restoration.

Overcoming the challenges of using dredged material for restoration

Most dredged sediment is disposed offshore; only a very small proportion is used to restore declining habitats. This is because using sediment beneficially for habitat restoration means moving it from the dredged area to the restoration site, which is not simple. There are many technical, financial and regulatory challenges to overcome.

The handbook shows how these challenges can be met, describing how dredge material can be used to protect and restore habitats, the issues to be considered, and the regulatory processes involved.

It shares best practices to be adopted for using more dredge material for habitat restoration, and considers where sediment can be used for achieving multiple benefits and added value.

It is hoped that the handbook can facilitate both the use of dredged material in more and larger estuarine and coastal habitat restoration projects, and support more strategic and effective management of this resource.

Download the handbook at the Catchment Based Approach (CaBA) website


‘Restoring Estuarine and Coastal Habitats with Dredged Material’ is part of a series of handbooks promoting restoration of different marine habitats, including the Saltmarsh Restoration Handbook, with contributions from ABPmer's Susanne Armstrong. For more information, visit the CaBA habitat restoration resources page.

ABPmer is a recognised leader in marine and coastal habitat creation, restoration and protection. We work with clients from initial conception through planning and consent to scheme implementation and post-delivery monitoring.

Image copyright Land & Water, used with permission