Secretary of State visits pioneering Saltmarsh Restoration Trial in Chichester Harbour 

Yesterday Thérèse Coffey, Secretary of State for the Environment, visited the shores of Chichester Harbour to learn about an innovative saltmarsh restoration trial

The Secretary of State was accompanied by staff from Chichester Harbour Conservancy, the Environment Agency and the Solent Seascapes Project.  Already a passionate advocate of the benefits of saltmarsh, she was able to draw on the knowledge of experts to find out about the technicalities of the trial as well as the wider issues affecting saltmarsh restoration within the area.

The Rt Hon Thérèse Coffey MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said:

“The Saltmarsh Restoration Trial in Chichester Harbour is an innovative and exciting approach to nature recovery.  Saltmarsh is declining at an alarming rate; it has been inspiring to see this groundbreaking initiative to restore a habitat which is so important in storing carbon and mitigating climate change.”

Why restore saltmarsh?

The trial came about as a result of the 2021 Natural England condition review, which found that the saltmarsh within the Chichester Harbour has declined by 58% since 1946.  The reasons for this loss and degradation include “coastal squeeze”, where hard structures and sea defences prevent the natural movement of sediment in the harbour and cause erosion of the saltmarsh.  Climate change and sea-level rise pose additional threats.

Chichester Harbour Conservancy is leading a partnership initiative, Chichester Harbour Protection and Recovery of Nature (CHaPRoN), emcompassing the saltmarsh restoration trial at West Itchenor.  The trial has pioneered a technique for using sediment dredged from within the harbour to raise the elevation of an area of shoreline sufficiently to allow saltmarsh plant species to colonise.  

First shoots…

The work placing sediment for the trial took place in February 2023, and the Secretary of State was able to see the first shoots of glasswort (a pioneer saltmarsh plant species) colonising the upper reaches of the site.  The walk down to the site took her past established areas of saltmarsh, abundant at this time of year with purple swathes of sea lavender. 

“Chichester Harbour is one of the most important sites for wildlife in the UK and our saltmarsh is amongst our most precious of habitats.  We were pleased to welcome the Secretary of State to visit our saltmarsh restoration trial site and encouraged by the importance she places on protecting and restoring this habitat.”
Matt Briers, CEO of Chichester Harbour Conservancy

The first stages of the saltmarsh restoration trial have been completed; the site will be carefully monitored to gauge the success of the technique so that the understanding may be applied in future saltmarsh restoration projects. 

Find out more about the saltmarsh restoration trial by clicking here. The Solent Seascape Project has made this film about the project:

The project is co-funded by East Head Impact, Earth Change and the Endangered Landscape Programme as part of the Solent Seascape Project.