Coastal and Floodplain Grazing Marsh

What is it?

Grazing marsh is seasonally flooded grassland in river valleys, estuaries and at the coast that is periodically grazed by cattle and sheep and sometimes cut for hay or silage. A system of ditches may be used to control water levels; these are often teeming with plants and insects and are important for eels and water voles. Good examples include the Somerset and Gwent Levels in England, and Insh Marshes in Scotland.

What is special about it?

Only a small proportion of the total extent of grazing marsh left in the UK (around 300,000 ha) is rich in plant life, or legally protected. Some areas are very important for breeding birds such as snipe, lapwing and curlew, whose populations have declined dramatically over recent years. Internationally important populations of wintering wildfowl occur in some areas, including Bewick’s and whooper swans.

What benefits does it provide?

Coastal and floodplain grazing marsh is vitally important in defending us against flooding and sea level rise, so we need to restore them where possible to ensure there is sufficient to protect us into the future.

How could development affect it?

Coastal and floodplain grazing marsh can be damaged by the effects of development, including marinas, river and coastal defences and erosion.

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UKBAP list of priority habitats