Nurturing the Thames Ecology
Biodiversity is declining at a unprecedented rate, since the industrial revolution, important ecosystems have been lost or damaged. These ecosystems provide several important services, such as resource provision, regulation of natural processes, such as climate and flood regulation, pollution control, and the provision of opportunities for recreation.
Populations of animals have also declined in recent decades; these populations are a good indicator of the health of the natural environment.
Drivers of historical environmental changes on the tidal Thames include increasing population and urbanisation and industrialisation. These drivers have contributed to air and water pollution, climate change and increased flood risk and habitat loss and fragmentation.
Activity on the tidal Thames has the potential to significantly affect nature. The conservation of nature is an important investment in preserving the health, wealth and security of the people living within the influence of the tidal Thames.
Animals & Plants
The tidal Thames is home to internationally significant numbers of migratory and overwintering birds, 125 species of fish and marine and terrestrial mammals, and a wide variety of plant species.
The habitats of the tidal Thames provide a variety of functions to both the animal species of the river and estuary and the population living along its length.
Mudflats and sandbanks are the most common habitats in the tidal Thames. The soft sediments are important for invertebrates and they support internationally important numbers of migratory and wintering wading birds.
Coastal saltmarsh is found in the marine areas of the Thames estuary, where salinity levels are higher and water currents are slower. These habitats provide important nursery areas for fish and are used as roosting habitat by a variety of bird species.
Seagrass beds are formed of seagrass plants, the only flowering plants that can survive when submerged. Seagrass beds occur at the edges of estuaries and provide habitat for juvenile fish and seahorse species, and invertebrates.
There are several designated nature conservation sites within the tidal Thames, in the aquatic and terrestrial environment. Statutory designated sites are protected by legislation, while non-statutory designated sites are protected through national and local policy.
Working in Partnership
We work with colleagues in other organisations to have a coordinated response to protecting the Thames.
Estuary Edges is an ecological design guide to encouraging wildlife into urban estuaries. This involves replacing brick, concrete and metal tidal walls with a variety of more natural habitats.
In spring 2021 we sought bids for financial support for projects that help improve the environment of the tidal Thames, in line with the goals of our river development framework, the Thames Vision.
Rainham Marshes and Silt Lagoons are a SSSI, designated for their populations of breeding and overwintering birds. The site is owned by the RSPB, who created a nature reserve on the site in 2000.
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