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Mersey Gateway Saltmarsh Conservation Project

Location:Widnes Warth nature reserve

Habitats:Wetland

Livestock:Various breeds of cattle

In brief:As part of the plan to create a new nature reserve on the Mersey Estuary, it is proposed to introduce conservation cattle grazing for a two year period to an area of saltmarsh. The aim is to increase both habitat and species diversity. The results will be monitored as part of a research project and if successful, will be rolled out to a much larger saltmarsh area in connection with the Mersey Gateway environmental mitigation programme.

Contact:Paul Oldfield

Tel:0151 495 4093

Email:paul.oldfield@halton.gov.uk

Weblink:www.merseygateway.co.uk


Mersey Gateway Saltmarsh Conservation Project

Widnes Warth nature reserve, 40 ha (8.4 hectares as part of grazing project), the site is located at the bottom of Tanhouse Lane, GR SJ528850

Objective 1: Critical review of extant management practices for saltmarsh. 
-       An analysis on extant management practices (output 1A)
-       Report on preferred option(s) for this saltmarsh (output 1B)
Objective 2: Detailed ecological and environmental audit of the saltmarsh
-       Report on the floral communities of the saltmarsh (output 2A)
-       Report on the fauna associated with the saltmarsh (output 2B)
-       Report on inorganic and organic pollution in the saltmarsh and the implications (output 2C)
Objective 3: Identification of best options for this saltmarsh
-       Report on the best options (output 3A)
Objective 4: Pilot study: implementation of the preferred option identified in objective       3
-       Interim critical evaluation after 1st year of grazing (output 4A)
-       Critical evaluation of the pilot scheme after 2nd year of grazing (output 4B)
 
The Final report (the PhD) will include the sustainable management of the saltmarsh including a) recommendations based on pilot study and for the future management of the nature reserve, b) report on the entry of meat into the human food chain, c) costed management plans, d) funding opportunities and e) resources required.
Value of the cattle grazing project:
1.    To establish a fully managed nature reserve on the saltmarsh which includes grazing by cattle and that addresses the need for an environmental mitigation scheme for the Mersey Gateway project
2.    To reconnect people with nature, through the possibility of using the cattle as part of a healthy eating programme in the Borough.
3.    To join with other landscape scale projects and other nature conservation initiatives in the Upper Mersey estuary.
4.    A further enhancement of the profile and reputation of conservation initiatives in the North West at a national level.

 

 

 

 

The main objective is to assist the Mersey Gateway Project in identifying sustainable management options for the saltmarsh, in particular to maximise its ecological value. In addition, the conservation management objectives for the saltmarsh, a Halton BAP habitat, are linked to the strategic Mersey Gateway aim of creating an environmental mitigation scheme as put forward during a planning Public Inquiry in 2009.
 
This research partnership between University of Salford and HBC is a live project with the scope to develop a series of related key ideas. Successful conservation within an urbanised area such as Halton is linked to another strategic aim of reconnecting people to nature, and this project will include identifying the involvement of the local community. A further consideration is the current ecosystem approach to the management of our resources such as saltmarsh. We are particularly interested in exploring the use of conservation grazing animals entering a local food chain.
 
An advert for a PhD researcher was placed in February 2010, with an anticipated April 2010 start date. The PhD will be funded for three years.

 
The project will include the following capital items:
1.     A holding pen for cattle, combined as a community viewing and activity area
2.     Cattle proof fencing, to maintain the cattle on the saltmarsh and to protect an important hedgeline.
3.     Grazing animals from the conservation herd managed by Cheshire Wildlife Trust
4.     Construction of small scrapes / wader feeding areas on the saltmarsh.
5.     A boardwalk and interpretation boards to explain cattle grazing to local residents