Estuary forums in the United Kingdom, Severn estuary case study

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This article is about estuary fora in the United Kingdom, with the Severn estuary as an example. The article discusses the role of the fora in public participation and in ICZM in the UK and then discusses the Severn estuary in more detail. The article provides information on the geography of the Severn estuary, on the partners involved and on future challenges.


The United Kingdom has many estuaries, or tidal river mouths. A number of these estuaries has its own forum, where a broad partnership discusses the management of the estuary. This approach has led to a high level of public participation and is a good example of ICZM. The first estuary forum was the XXXXX estuary forum, created in 19xx. This led to the establishment of the other fora and these are now a commonly accepted management approach in the UK.

Such a management approach, where a broad partnership manages a biological or geographical unit using an participatory method, are of course not limited to the UK. Similar examples are l;askjdfl;askdfh in asd and asdfasd in asdfsd.

The Severn Estuary

Figure 1: A view of the Severn bridge

The Severn estuary is located in the Southwest of the UK and is part of the border between England and Wales. Cities along the Severn include Cardiff, Newport, Avonmouth, Portishead, Clevedon and Weston-super-Mare.

Google map of the Severn Estuary

The estuary has one of the highest tidal ranges in the world — about 15 meters, or 49 feet.[1][2] During the highest tides, the rising water is funnelled up the estuary into the Severn bore, a self-reinforcing solitary wave that travels rapidly upstream against the river current.[3]. The estuary's funnel shape, its tidal range, and the underlying geology of rock, gravel and sand, produce strong tidal streams and high turbidity, giving the water a notably brown coloration. The tidal range also results in the estuary having one of the most extensive intertidal wildlife habitats in the UK, comprising mudflats, sandflats, rocky platforms and islands. These form a basis for plant and animal communities typical of extreme physical conditions of liquid mud and tide-swept sand and rock. The estuary is recognised as a wetland area of international importance and is designated as a Ramsar site.[4]

West of the line between Lavernock Point and Sand Point the Severn extends into the Bristol Channel, which in turn discharges into the Celtic Sea and the wider Atlantic Ocean. The islands of Steep Holm and Flat Holm are located close to that line, in the middle of the estuary.

The Severn Estuary Partnership uses a geographically extended definition of the Severn Estuary, beginning at the tidal limit of the River Severn in Gloucester and ending at a line drawn between Hurlestone Point near Minehead and Nash Point in the Vale of Glamorgan. This article uses the same definition.

The Severn Estuary Partnership

Figure 2: A joint meeting of the Severn Estuary Partnership

The Severn Estuary Partnership (SEP) was set up in 1995 as an independent initiative to focus the activities of local government, statutory authorities and interested parties such as farmers and fisherman. Its stated aim is To bring together all those involved in the development, management and use of the Estuary within a framework which encourages the integration of their interests and responsibilities to achieve common objectives.[5] In 2001 SEP published the Strategy for the Severn Estuary, which sets out a plan for the management of the estuary. [6]

List of partners in the Severn Estuary Partnership

The Severn Estuary Partnership is also (directly or indirectly) involved in several EU-funded projects: including CoastAtlantic, CorePoint and Imcore

Future directions of the SEP

Figure 3: Locations considered for the Severn Estuary Barrage over the years. The black lines indicate the the options that are currently of the most interest, with assosiated peak power at each location.

Implementation of the Strategy for the Severn Estuary is currently the main priority for the SEP. However, the UK government has announced a new feasibility study on 25 september 2007 into the construction of a barrage across the Severn Estuary. This is a follow up of a previous study by the sustainable development commission, which also looked at the possibility of a Severn barrage.

A barrage across the Severn would have several advantages:

  • It would generate 8.6 GW and meet five percent of Britain's power needs.
  • It would provide flood protection for the part of the Severn Estuary that is inside the barrage
  • It would provide better shipping and boating conditions inside the barrage
  • It would boost the local economy during the construction of the barrage

However, there are also several disadvantages:

  • The costs of the barrage
  • The exact effect of the barrage on the ecology of the estuary is unknown. However, it is predicted that there would be large changes to the ecology. Mudflats could disappear, which are the feeding grounds for many migratory birds. The barrage would also be an obstacle for migratory fish, such as salmon. However, reduced turbidity would improve the density and spread of invertebrate colonies, which serve as food for migratory birds and fish.
  • The barrage would be subject to silting effects. This means that the barrage would need constant maintainance or the barrage would cease generating power
  • Shipping would have to navigate locks, which costs time and therefore money

See also

The Severn Estuary partnership website


  1. [1]
  2. [2]
  3. [
  4. Information on Severn Estuary Ramsar site designation
  5. [3] Strategy for the Severn Estuary (English language summary)]
  6. [4] Strategy for the Severn Estuary (English language summary)]

The main author of this article is Kreiken, Wouter
Please note that others may also have edited the contents of this article.

Author for Severn Estuary Partnership

The main author of this article is Pickaver, Alan
Please note that others may also have edited the contents of this article.