An application for wetlands along the east coast to be added to the UK’s tentative list of World Heritage sites has been submitted to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. It comes after a new report indicates the east coast is one of the world’s most important places for nature.
The recent review, authored by marine and coastal habitat consultants ABPmer, concluded that the English east coast is of ‘outstanding universal value’ owing to the world class network of coastal wetlands which support globally important migratory bird populations.
Could the Humber coast become a World Heritage site?
Figures collated in the report indicate that around one million birds are reliant on the east coast each winter, using the unique shores and inland marshes to shelter from the harsh conditions in Scandinavia, Canada, Greenland and Siberia. In the spring the coast fills with around 200,000 migrating and breeding birds, and in the autumn, around 700,000 birds make the area home.
The shorelines provide a rich buffet of invertebrates which bird species rely on in the winter months and refuel on in the spring and autumn as they make a pitstop on their gruelling migratory journeys. Further from the shoreline, marshes offer valuable roosting sites and refuges for birds at high tide, as well as nesting grounds. They also provide foraging and nursery grounds for fish and a wide range of other benefits for society, including carbon capture and storage, flood defence, recreation, tourism and fisheries.
In total the report shows that the east coast wetlands support over 155 different bird species. Of these, 29 use the east coast in internationally important numbers, meaning they are dependent on the wetlands for their survival. These include knot, black-tailed godwit, dark-bellied brent geese and bar-tailed godwit, many of which are already of conservation concern.
Richard Barnard, Yorkshire and Humber area manager for RSPB, said:
“A wide range of species use the Humber as an essential home and as refuge during huge migration journeys. It’s so exciting to think that the east coast is up there with some of the most important places for nature globally.”
Nominations to UNESCO for World Heritage status
The application to join the UK’s tentative list of Natural World Heritage sites has been submitted in response to the government’s review of potential sites launched earlier this year. This list forms the basis of the UK’s World Heritage site nominations to UNESCO (United National Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation).
The east coast wetlands application has been initiated by the RSPB and endorsed by wider partners, including the National Trust, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, several local authorities and the Crown Estate. The proposed boundary of the site is defined by existing nature conservation areas covering 170,000 hectares of coastline from the Humber estuary in the North to the Thames in the South.
James Robinson, director of conservation, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, said:
“This bid recognises the incredible value of wetlands for nature, people and the planet. At WWT we witness how important protected wetlands are in providing vital food and shelter for the tens of thousands of wild water birds who arrive at our reserves in spectacular flocks every year on their annual winter migrations.
“The people of the East Riding of Yorkshire and Lincolnshire have always known how fantastic the Humber’s wetlands are but for them to be recognised on a world stage would help us all speak up for these habitats and the importance of protecting and celebrating them.”
Currently there are just two Natural World Heritage sites in the UK: Dorset and East Devon Coast and the Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast. In addition to two UK overseas territories in the Gough Islands in the South Atlantic and Henderson Island in the South Pacific. If accepted the east coast could join this list which also includes some of the world’s most iconic sites, such as the Great Barrier Reef, the Galapagos Islands and Mount Kilimanjaro.
A decision on whether the east coast wetlands will be added to the UK’s tentative list is expected by early 2023.
To find out more about the east coast and to explore some of its vibrant habitats visit: