Coastal defence and the Habitats Directive: predictions of habitat change in England and Wales
Future coastal defence policies and ‘natural’ processes will have an impact on habitats within Special Areas of Conservation (SAC), Special Protection Areas (SPA) and Ramsar sites. An overview of the potential nature and extent of these changes (losses or gains over the next 50 years) around the coast of England and Wales was carried out to inform policy decisions on the legal and funding aspects of coastal defence options and possible habitat replacement. It is predicted that there could be a net loss of freshwater and brackish habitat of around 4000 hectares, together with a net gain of intertidal (saltmarsh and mudflat/sandflat) habitats of around 770 hectares, with the gains associated with managed retreat (c.12 500 ha) balancing the expected losses due to coastal squeeze and erosion on the unprotected coast. The likely costs of freshwater and brackish habitat replacement, on a hectare-for-hectare basis, is estimated to be in the order of £50–60 million, including site purchase, set-up and on-going management costs.