Photo: Boskalis

Restoring estuarine and coastal habitats with dredged material

The Environment Agency together with ABPmer and Cefas have recently published a practical guide for beneficial use of dredged sediment for estuarine and coastal habitat restoration.

The ecological, societal, and economic benefits of estuarine and coastal habitats, and the threats they face from a changing climate and rising seas, have become more widely recognised over the past decade. This means that habitat restoration is becoming a priority for government agencies and the general public.

One way of restoring vulnerable coastal marine habitats is to ‘feed’ the intertidal areas with introduced sediment. This is especially valuable where habitats are eroding, sinking or subject to coastal squeeze.

Such ‘recharge’ schemes may use excavated sediment that is derived from dredging activities in ports, harbours and marinas (thus providing a ‘beneficial’ use for this material).

There is no shortage of available dredged sediment that could be suitable for habitat restoration because several million cubic meters are dredged every year. The challenge is, and always has been, understanding how to make best use of this vast resource.

Colin Scott, habitat restoration and creation specialist at ABPmer, worked with the Environment Agency and Cefas to produce the ‘Restoring Estuarine and Coastal Habitats with Dredged Material’.

Supporting the goals of the UN ‘Decade on Ecosystem Restoration’, the handbook is aimed at policymakers, nature conservation bodies, local communities, anyone interested or involved in dredging, coastal management and ecosystem restoration.