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Collaboration is key to Biodiversity Audit

The Norfolk Coast is home to thousands of species across a range of habitats, including some rare and priority species of birds, mammals, invertebrates and plants.

Many of the habitats, which stretch from the Wash at King’s Lynn to the sea cliffs at Cromer are protected for their national and internationally recognised wildlife, while also providing a working landscape for farmers.

Ensuring that the land is managed in ways that best protect and enhance these habitats is the work of numerous different organisations and individuals, including farmers, national governing bodies, local authorities and conservation/environmental groups.

To that end, a collaboration between the UEA School of Environmental Services, the Norfolk Coast partnership and the North Norfolk Coastal Group (NNCG) has brought together scientists, environmentalists, regional experts, farmers and land owners to assess the current situation and discuss what can be done in the future to enhance the biodiversity of the area.

Among the variety of habitats within this landscape are some of the largest areas of salt marsh in the country, sand dunes, freshwater grazing marshes and wetlands, that have the potential to play a significant role in climate mitigation. The area is home to more than 1,200 priority species – birds, mammals, invertebrates and plants – in many cases, more than other comparable habitats across England and Wales.

Although much of nature conservation is evidence-based, typically this is restricted to large and charismatic species – particularly birds. Plants and invertebrates are often overlooked when planning conservation action, yet they make up 77% of all the wildlife species on the Norfolk Coast, so it is vital to include them in plans for wider nature recovery.

David Lyles, Chair of the NNCG says: ‘In any form of management identifying the assets is key. The UEA team have done this admirably, as well as identifying management practices that will enhance and enable continued biodiversity along this coastal area. For me as the facilitator it has been a privilege to work with so many different organisations, landowners, and land managers and not least the UEA in a united, collaborative, and scientific way for the benefit of nature in our local area.’

Professor Paul Dolman, part of the UEA team, says: ‘This work is ground breaking, not just because it is the first time anyone has fully quantified the important wildlife of this amazing landscape and identified what it needs, but crucially by working with land managers throughout the study we were able to develop a plan of how to expand and enhance nature along the coast.”

While the task ahead may seem big, it is by taking this collaborative approach that the contributors to the biodiversity audit – be they academics, farmers or conservationists – can most successfully work together to achieve landscape-scale nature recovery. Relatively small changes such as changing the management of drainage ditches, or more dramatic ones, like transforming low-lying arable to new grazing marsh and areas at risk of saltwater flooding into new salt marsh, will provide more space for many species, even as coastal habitats are squeezed by sea level rises.

The full report can be viewed via the click and paste link below: Norfolk_Coast_Biodiversity_Audit_Phase_1_report_pdf/19747261