The Severn Estuary

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Severn EstuarySevern Estuary

All of the coastal areas of Avon lie within the Severn Estuary. The estuary is an internationally important conservation area and one of the great natural wonders of the world

The Severn offers us huge potential for moving towards meeting our targets for 2050, but it must be done in a way that doesn’t destroy all that makes the Estuary special. We would welcome further investigation of realistic options for renewable energy ¬ those which minimise environmental damage, whilst maximising energy potential - The Wildlife Trust's Head of Living Seas, Joan Edwards

Its funnel shape and second-largest tidal range in the world create a unique, highly dynamic environment resulting in unique wildlife habitats shaped by the beautiful winding rivers that run down from the Welsh hills to meet the sea of the Bristol Channel.

UK BAP priority habitats* include mudflats, maritime cliff and slopes, saltmarsh, coastal sand dunes, and Sabellaria reefs. The importance of the estuary for wildlife is reflected in its international designation as a Ramsar site. It is also designated as a SSSI, SPA, SAC.

The Estuary provides a haven for the young of our commercial fish stocks, it is a means of transport and trade, it is the site of many recreational pursuits and by its very nature it brings enjoyment to people of all ages.

Over 80 species of fish have been recorded in the Severn Estuary. These include several migratory species such as salmon, sea trout, sea and river lampreys and in particular the UK priority species, allis and twaite shad. The estuary supports internationally important wildfowl and wader populations, in particular resident shelduck, winering dunlin, white-fronted goose, gadwall, and redshank, and Bewick’s swan, and provides a key staging ground during migration for species such as ringed plover and whimbrel.

The saltmarshes support significant populations of nationally scarce plant species including slender hare’s-ear, sea clover and bulbous foxtail, and are used for feeding by ducks and roosting by waders. Maritime cliffs, such as those found at Steepholm, Middlehope, Battery Point, Aust and between Clevedon and Portishead, contribute to the habitat diversity and provide roosting areas for birds, including nesting peregrines. A number of sites along the estuary are of national importance for their geology, including the Aust cliffs. There are several extensive Sabellaria reefs offshore which provide habitat for a wide diversity of invertebrates.

Tidal energy

The tidal range also makes it a huge potential source of energy. Proposals to use this potential, and concerns about the possible impacts on the Estuary ecosystem, go back decades. So do warnings about the threat of climate change. What remains much less well recognised is the value of wildlife to people, and the urgency to restore our landscapes so that they are resilient to the impacts of climate change. The great risk is that the debate becomes one dimensional, focusing on the need for renewable energy without weighing up the impacts that may result.
This is why it is so vital that we make the right decision about harnessing the Severn: to capture the power of the water without blocking its full flow. In this way fish can still move and the tides can still ebb and flow for miles, creating huge mud flats and marshes. We must ensure that all options for renewable energy generation on the Severn are explored, not just tidal devices, ensuring the right means of harnessing a fantastic resource can be chosen without losing this wonder of the world.





FilenameFile size
Severn-Barrage-Report.pdf2.43 MB
Severn-Estuary-Walks-and-Wildlife.pdf316.43 KB