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Nature offers a window on global natural history, providing a unique insight into the natural world, the environment, and the magnificent creatures that inhabit it.

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LISTEN AGAINListen 30 min
Listen to 29 January
Grant Sonnex
Monday 29 January 2007
A flock of Golden Plover. © Peter Simpson /
A flock of Golden Plover, similar to those seen on the Humber Estary.
© Peter Simpson /

Coastal Squeeze

Grant Sonnex explores the predictions about rising sea levels, which are constantly revised to be higher and higher.
Global warming is a phrase that is on everyone’s lips at present and it brings to mind many images.

One of the most worrying is that of melting glaciers at the poles.

Scientists expect huge amounts of fresh water to be released into the world’s oceans over the next few decades and combine that with water already there expanding as it warms up we have a recipe for rising sea levels all over the world.

If just 10 percent of the water locked in these frozen reservoirs is added to the oceans, geologists predict that sea levels will rise by more than 20 feet, drowning low lying islands and inundating continental coasts and this could be exacerbated by more storms and storm surges.

Humberside, which has large areas of low lying land, is taking this problem very seriously and has already begun implementing a 100 year plan of coastal re-alignment.

Essentially what this means is putting into effect a series of actions depending on how densely populated or financially viable an area is.

Next to cities like Hull, or around the large container ports the existing sea walls will be strengthened. But in areas which are mostly agriculture or small settlements, the walls will be moved further inland, in effect allowing the sea to flood back in.

Allowing it back is the right phrase because much of the Humber was reclaimed by drainage a few hundred years ago.

Many parts of the Humber estuary will once again go back to mudflat and salt marsh. This is good news for wildlife because wading birds (and the Humber is one of the most important estuaries in the UK for waders) need extensive areas mudflat and salt marsh to roost and feed.

The small area of re-alignment that has already happened at Paull Holm Strays has already attracted thousands of waders and is considered a huge success by the RSPB.

The Humber is acting as a model for what must happen to all our low lying coastal areas around the country.
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