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Thames Estuary and Marshes Current Conservation Status

As was the case for Benfleet and Southend Marshes, a condition assessment for the Thames Estuary SPA and Ramsar site was not available at the time of writing.  However, assessments for the corresponding SSSI sites found within the SPA were available (compiled in 1st November 2005 but carried out up to 4 years before).  The SSSI sites that correspond with this SPA and Ramsar site and lie within the study area are the South Thames Estuary and Marshes SSSI for the area south of the river, and Mucking Flats and Marshes SSSI for the area north of the river.  Mucking Flats and Marshes SSSI comprises an extensive stretch on the left bank of Thames mudflats and saltmarsh, together with sea wall grassland.  The South Thames Estuary and Marshes SSSI stretches from Gravesend to the eastern end of the Isle of Grain on the right bank and supports a wide range of habitats including saltmarsh, mudflat, grazing marsh and shingle.

These SSSIs were assessed using the standard Natural England conditions.  South Thames Estuary and Marshes is composed of 58 management units, while Mucking Flats and Marshes has only 4 units.  The full condition assessments of these areas can be downloaded from the Natural England website (opens in a new window), while a summary of the findings for both sites are presented below.  In general, the area north of the river within the Mucking Flats and Marshes SSSI fell within the ‘area favourable’ assessment, while the area south of the river within the South Thames Estuary and Marshes SSSI is mostly in favourable condition (87%). Only 3.6% of the site is now in unfavourable condition (unfavourable declining and unfavourable no change).

The main issues affecting the site north of the river (Mucking Flats and Marshes SSSI) were inappropriate weed control and public access/disturbance.  Such issues were only seen in Unit one, where tall herb ruderals dominated creating a less than ideal high tide roost, coupled with the disturbance from a nearby footpath.  South of the river, in the South Thames Estuary and Marshes SSSI, the two major units in unfavourable condition are units 100 and 101, which are both experiencing saltmarsh erosion as a result of coastal squeeze.

South Thames Estuary and Marshes SSSI Condition summary (1st November 2005)

% area meeting PSA target

% area favourable

% area unfavourable recovering

% area unfavourable no change

% area unfavourable declining

% area destroyed/ part destroyed

96.35%

86.9%

9.48%

1.84%

1.76%

0.00%

Mucking Flats and Marshes Condition Summary

% area meeting PSA target

% area favourable

% area unfavourable recovering

% area unfavourable no change

% area unfavourable declining

% area destroyed/ part destroyed

94.13%

94.13%

0.0%

5.87%

0.00%

0.00%

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