Leading renewable energy company, Ørsted, is partnering with Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust to launch Wilder Humber – an ambitious five-year programme to restore marine habitats and species throughout the Humber estuary, a large tidal estuary on the east coast of northern England, and one of the busiest and fastest-growing trade routes in Europe.
The iconic Humber estuary is also one of the most important natural features and conservation sites in the UK. However, the estuary’s conservation status was downgraded to unfavourable conditions by Natural England in 2012. This was attributed to habitat loss, commercial development, and the decline of precious habitats, such as sand dunes, saltmarsh, seagrass, and native oysters.
These habitats are critical for marine biodiversity. For example, seagrass provides rich nursery habitats, breeding and feeding grounds for a vast array of species, including shore crabs, juvenile flatfish, bass, brent geese and other wading birds. Sadly, extensive seagrass loss has occurred in UK waters during the last 100 years, with recent research estimating that at least 44% of the UK’s seagrass has been lost since 1936, of which 39% has been since the 1980s.
In efforts to reverse these major declines, the Wilder Humber programme is trialling a “seascape-scale” model, combining sand dune, saltmarsh, seagrass, and native oyster restoration to maximise conservation and biodiversity benefits across the estuary. The programme will
Restore and enrich nearly 40 hectares of protected habitats and rebuild the Humber’s lost native oyster population to over half a million oysters;
Restore 30 hectares – in the 40-hectare area – of lost seagrass meadow at Spurn Point;
Work with local communities to tell the story of the restoration via community events and school visits;
Provide volunteering opportunities for people to take part in wildlife conservation in the Humber estuary.
Rachael Bice, Chief Executive of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, said:
“The time has come for bigger, bolder action on seascape and seagrass restoration, following good results from our earlier trials. This pioneering programme delivered by an exciting partnership is a crucial step forward. We expect to see huge improvements to water quality, richer marine habitat providing a better home for more birds, seals and fish across the estuary and beyond.”
As a global leader in offshore wind, Ørsted has set an industry-leading ambition that all new renewable energy projects it commissions from 2030, at the latest, should deliver a net-positive biodiversity impact. Through collaboration with the Trusts, Wilder Humber programme will provide a foundation for Ørsted’s biodiversity ambitions.
Benj Sykes, Head of Environment, Consents and External Affairs at Ørsted, said: “The diversity of life on planet Earth is our natural life-support system, but it’s being lost at an alarming rate. Climate change is accelerating this trend and it’s vital we address the global climate and biodiversity crises urgently. At Ørsted, we firmly believe that we can find ways to increase the build out of much-needed renewable energy whilst delivering a positive impact on nature. Through collaboration with conservation and restoration experts, like The Wildlife Trust, we want to pioneer biodiversity projects that will make a real and lasting difference. Our partnership with Lincolnshire and Yorkshire Wildlife Trusts is a major step towards that ambition in the UK.”
To celebrate the launch of Wilder Humber, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust is hosting a free community event at their Spurn Discovery Centre on Saturday 22nd April. From 10am to 4pm, join the restoration teams to learn how oysters help to clean our seas and investigate how seagrass seed bags are created before they’re planted in the estuary. A limited number of free places have also been made available for Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Spurn Safari, taking visitors on a memorable journey to Yorkshire’s very own ‘Land’s End’ aboard on the famous Unimog. Tickets are available on the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust events page for exclusive evening talks (6pm-8pm) from our restoration officers, who will explain more about their exciting Wilder Humber work and give an opportunity for a Q&A. For more information about the community launch day and where to book free tickets, please visit www.ywt.org.uk/events .