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Benfleet and Southend Marshes Conservation Objectives

The conservation objectives for the site are detailed in the Regulation 33 advice for the Benfleet and Southend Marshes Marine Site published in 2001. The conservation objectives for the nationally and internationally important populations of the regularly occurring migratory species are:

Subject to natural change, maintain in favourable condition the habitats for the internationally important populations of regularly occurring migratory species, under the Birds Directive, in particular:

  • Shell banks;
  • Saltmarsh;
  • Intertidal Sandflat and Mudflat communities; and
  • Eelgrass beds

And;

Subject to natural change, maintain in favourable condition the habitats for the internationally important assemblages of waterfowl, under the Birds Directive, in particular:

  • Shell banks;
  • Saltmarsh;
  • Intertidal Sandflat and Mudflat communities; and
  • Eelgrass beds

Numbers of bird species using these habitats within the Benfleet and Southend Marshes SPA are given below (average peak counts for the five year period 1986/87 to 1990/91). It should be noted that the SPA conservation objectives focus on habitat condition (rather than bird numbers) in recognition of the fact that bird populations may change as a reflection of national or international trends or events. However, annual counts for qualifying species will be used by Natural England, in the context of five year peak means, together with available information on UK population and distribution trends, to assess whether the SPA is continuing to make an appropriate contribution to the favourable conservation status of the SPAs across Europe.

Internationally important populations of regularly occurring migratory species

Species

Population (5yr Peak mean)

Dark-bellied brent goose

7,200l birds (4 % of World population)

Knot

8,400 birds (2% of East Atlantic flyway)

Grey Plover

2,500,birds (1% of East flyway)

Nationally important populations of regularly occurring migratory species

Importance

Population (5yr Peak mean)

Benfleet and Southend Marshes supports large populations of wintering waterfowl

30,400 individual birds.

Nationally important populations of regularly occurring migratory species within the internationally important assemblage of waterfowl

Ringed Plover

430 birds (2% of British Population)

Dunlin

11,100 birds (31 % of British population)

The Regulation 33 advice provides favourable condition tables for the Benfleet and Southend Marshes European Marine Sites.  The relevant favourable condition targets for the Benfleet and Southend Marshes SPA are shown below.

Favourable Condition Tables for the Benfleet and Southend Marshes European Marine Site

Feature

Sub-Feature

Attribute

Measure

Target

Comments

Internationally important assemblages of waterfowl and internationally and nationally important populations of regularly occurring migratory species.

All sub-features

Disturbance

Reduction or displacement of wintering birds

No significant reduction in numbers or displacement of wintering birds attributed to disturbance from an established baseline, subject to natural change.

Significant disturbance attributable to human activities can result in reduced food intake and/or increased energy expenditure. Five year peak mean information on populations will be used as the basis for assessing whether disturbance is damaging

Absence of obstruction to view lines.

Openness of terrain unrestricted by obstructions

No increase in obstructions to existing views lines, subject to natural change.

Waders require over >200 m and dark-bellied brent geese require unrestricted views over >500 m to allow early detection of predators when feeding and roosting.

Shell Banks

Extent

Area (ha), measured once per reporting cycle

No decrease in extent from an established baseline, subject to natural change.

Shell banks are important roosting areas.

Intertidal mudflat and sandflat communities

Extent

Area (ha), measured once per reporting cycle

No decrease in extent of intertidal sediment from an established baseline, subject to natural change.

Intertidal sediments and their communities provide important feeding areas for the migratory species of birds

Internationally important assemblage of waterfowl and internationally and nationally important populations of regularly occurring migratory species

Intertidal mudflat and sandflat communities

Food availability

Presence and abundance of invertebrates measured periodically (frequency to be determined).

Presence and abundance of prey species should not deviate from an established baseline, subject to natural change

These species are important food supply for birds. This food source is also important for a nationally important breeding population of ringed plover.

For specialist feeders it may be necessary to record to species level for important prey items.

Food availability will be affected by freezing conditions.

Presence and abundance of green algae

Presence and abundance of prey species should not deviate from an established baseline, subject to natural change.

Enteromorpha is important for dark-bellied brent geese.

Saltmarsh

Extent

Area (ha) measured once per reporting cycle.

No decrease in extent of Atlantic salt meadows from an established baseline, subject to natural change.

Important roosting and feeding areas.

Food availability

Presence and abundance of soft-leaved and seed-bearing plants.

Presence and abundance of food species should not deviate from an established baseline, subject to natural change.

Important for feeding bark-bellied brent geese

Internationally important assemblage of waterfowl and internationally and nationally important populations of regularly occurring migratory species

Saltmarsh

Vegetation characteristics

Short vegetation predominating (roosting)

Vegetation height throughout areas used for roosting should not deviate significantly from an established baseline, subject to natural change.

Vegetation of <10 cm is required throughout area used by roosting waders

Eel grass bed communities

Extent

Area (ha) ,measured once per reporting cycle

No decrease in extent and distribution of Zostera from an established baseline, subject to natural change.

Eelgrass beds are an important feeding area for dark-bellied brent geese.

Food availability

Presence and abundance of eelgrass.

Presence and abundance of food species should not deviate from an established baseline, subject to natural change.

Eelgrass beds are an important food source for dark-bellied brent geese.

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