Conservation and ecology
Much of the Essex coast is a surprisingly remote and tranquil landscape of shallow creeks, estuaries, low-lying islands, and mudflats, together with broad tracts of saltmarsh. There are also smaller areas of crumbling cliff, shingle and sand-dune.
Beyond the sea defences there are large areas of reclaimed grazing marsh (identified by their characteristic ancient fleet and ditch systems) and productive arable farmland.
The coastal habitats are internationally important for their wildlife interest and support large numbers of overwintering and breeding wetland birds, rare plants and insects and diverse marine wildlife.
The vast majority of the coastline and estuaries are designated in the following ways
- RAMSAR sites
- Special Protection Areas
- Sites of Special Scientific Interest
- 'The Essex Estuaries' also a Special Area of Conservation
- Marine Conservation Zones
- Wildlife Sites
There is a marked contrast between the wild and remote coastal marshes and the adjacent industrial and urban developments, which can be highly visible in the low-lying landscape. Whilst ensuring sustainable coastal development remains important, rising sea levels due to climate change also present considerable threats to coastal areas through coastal squeeze, the alteration of coastal processes and increased flood risk.
In response to these challenges, there is a considerable amount of positive action taking place up and down the county’s coastline. With individuals and organisations working together to develop integrated solutions that protects and benefits the natural environment.
These initiatives include:
- Greater Thames Marshes Nature Improvement Area
- RSPB’s Greater Thames Futurescape
- Essex Wildlife Trust’s Living Landscapes
- Wallasea Island Wild Coast Project
Guidance and support is also available from the Essex Biodiversity Project for individuals who are interested in conserving Essex’s special coastal wildlife. Natural England operates a number of Environmental Stewardship Schemes that provide funding to landowners who own and manage important coastal features or who would like to create new habitat.