Alde-Ore - The Alde-Ore Estuary - Securing a sustainable future for wildlife

LIFE08 NAT/UK/000199

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Contact details:

Project Manager: David MASON
Email: info@lifealdeore.org

Project description:


Orford Ness is the best-preserved vegetated shingle site in the UK and holds 15% of the coastal vegetated shingle globally. Changing weather patterns have resulted in the marshes drying out. The small Havergate island in the River Ore is a breeding site for avocets and terns, which can usually be seen during spring and summer. Large numbers of ducks and wading birds populate it in autumn and winter. Rising sea levels threaten the reserve.


The Alde-Ore project aimed to develop the management and infrastructure of two exceptional Natura 2000 wildlife sites, Orford Ness and Havergate Island, in the Alde-Ore estuary to sustain and enhance the habitats and species of European significance. The proposed actions built on conservation work already carried out on these sites by the National Trust and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the two largest nature conservation charities in the UK and Europe. The actions also further developed the nature conservation work supported by previous LIFE grants.

In more detail, the project aimed to: 1. Establish a functional, efficient and sustainable infrastructure for water management and control of the coastal lagoons at Havergate Island and the coastal lagoons and marshes at Orford Ness. This will provide long-term improvements to habitat conditions and enable adaptation to the effects of climate change including changing rainfall patterns and rises in sea-level. 2. Carry out sustainable habitat management, targeted at Annex 1 breeding bird species and habitats, including the creation of new breeding sites and improvements to existing sites and habitats. [Annex 1 target species avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta), Sandwich tern (Sterna sandvicensis) and Annex II/2 species, the redshank (Tringa totanus). 3. Significantly improve the protection for Annex 1 breeding bird species from predation and disturbance by red fox and brown rat, through fencing, ditching, remote monitoring work and direct predator control measures. [Annex 1 target species avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta), Sandwich tern (Sterna sandvicensis). 4. Monitor and evaluate the effects of the proposed management systems on the Annex 1 bird species and other significant habitats and species during the project and to feed this information into future site management plans. 5. Implement systems to manage and control improper access onto the southern section of Orford Ness spit to prevent increasing damage to shingle habitats (codes 1210 and 1220 of the Habitats Directive) and Annex 1 breeding bird species little tern (Sterna albifrons). 6. Improve the visitor experience at both of the sites and to disseminate the project results to a wide European audience of site managers, ecologists and the general public.


The Alde-Ore project provided a work programme to extend, enhance and protect relevant habitats and species. By creating new features and improving water level management infrastructure and habitat management in the wetlands, site managers can now maintain the lagoons and marshes in optimum condition for wildlife throughout the year. A principal objective of LIFE+ project actions was to enhance the resilience of the sites on Orford Ness and Havergate Island to changing climatic conditions. The ground works and infrastructure improvements have achieved that. On Orford Ness, the new water management infrastructure created an additional 3 ha of coastal lagoon habitat, along with 2.4 km of new ditches and a further 4 km of linear scrapes (foot drains). The deepened scrapes and new ditches increased the water carrying capacity of the site, allowing it to hold water for longer into the summer and early autumn. The linked system allowed improved management of water at appropriate times of the year to maintain optimum water levels for key species, in particular breeding and migrant avocet and redshank, spoonbill, and golden plover along with many other species of waders and wildfowl for which the site is important. Three new inlet sluices enable controlled abstraction of water from the adjacent tidal creek during the late summer, allowing the new storage lagoons to fill up. This water is then filtered through the system of ditches, water controls and deepened scrapes to create flow and replenish key areas as required. During the winter months, a new, more efficient pumping system can evacuate excess rainfall into the estuary system. This also proved its value following a North Sea tidal surge in December 2013, which led to significant incursion of tidal water into the site. On Havergate Island, the saline lagoons had been fully rehabilitated by March 2012 and all six tidal sluices replaced. This ensures future sustainable management of the saline lagoons, until rising sea levels make the site untenable. These works enabled the lagoon vegetation to be maintained at an early successional stage by the management of water levels, favouring the target species. The new sluices are functioning very well, being much easier and safer to use. These now allow more efficient influx of river water to refresh the marshes and reduce salinity. Salinity has been kept below the target of 40 ppt in all, but one of the readings has increased since the installation. The project created 5 ha of new islands, using soil redistributed from existing islands and spoil banks. The new configuration of islands, channels and underwater berms settled very well and allowed a better flow of water around the lagoons preventing pockets of stagnation. The lower height of the islands allows winter flooding. As a result, vegetation control now requires less mowing, and the brown rat lost its favoured habitat. The project achieved a good degree of control over the brown rat population on Havergate Island, and towards the end of the programme bait boxes stayed empty, suggesting no rats were present. This programme will be reviewed by land management department of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). Salt marsh vegetation was established across the new islands. It is still early days, but in the longer term this will provide habitat for increasingly rare salt marsh invertebrates and plants. Avocets on Havergate Island are preferentially selecting the new islands. The same is true of the common terns and black headed gulls. A flock of summering spoonbills also favoured these new islands as did roosting waders in the autumn. Shingle was spread on two islands to make them more attractive to nesting Sandwich terns. Unfortunately, tern species have yet to return, despite early displays. Working closely with local communities and other stakeholders, project staff have actively engaged people in helping create and implement plans to protect fragile shingle habitats. Better communication with visitors to the shingle spit through direct contact, well-marked access routes together with on and off-site interpretation enabled improvements in the management of these sensitive areas. This enhanced communication improved visitors' understanding of the ecology of these superb habitats, so that they can enjoy visiting the sites without harming the local wildlife. The project monitored the effects of the work carried out and reported its results in scientific and technical journals. It also disseminated its progress through a series of site visits, workshops and talks, a project website and collaboration with the media. The dissemination efforts culminated in what has been described by stakeholders as an attractive and informative layman's report.

Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Conservation Plan (see "Read more" section).


Environmental issues addressed:


Species - Birds
Habitats - Coastal


protected area‚  coastal area‚  wetland‚  water resources management

Target species

 Recurvirostra avosetta   Sterna albifrons   Sterna sandvicensis 

Target Habitat types

  • 1150 - Coastal lagoons
  • 1210 - Annual vegetation of drift lines
  • 1220 - Perennial vegetation of stony banks

Natura 2000 sites

SPA UK9009112 Alde-Ore Estuary
SCI UK0030076 Alde, Ore and Butley Estuaries



Coordinator The National Trust
Type of organisation NGO-Foundation
Description The National Trust is the largest conservation charity in Europe and has been working on conservation for more than 100 years. The trust has 3.5 million members who support it in its conservation work. It owns and cares for more than 1 000 properties, over 250 000 ha of land and 1 100 km of coastline. Some 40% of trust land is nationally important for nature and is designated as sites of special scientific interest and three-quarters of this SSSI land is also designated under European directives for wildlife conservation.
Partners Royal Society for Protection of Birds, United Kingdom


Project reference LIFE08 NAT/UK/000199
Duration 01-APR-2010 to 31-MAR -2014
Total budget 1,066,290.00 €
EU contribution 533,145.00 €
Project location East Anglia(United Kingdom)


Read more:

Brochure "Working together for landscape, wildlife and people in the Alde-Ore estuary"
Project web site Project's website
Project web site - 2 Project's blog
Publication: After-LIFE Conservation Plan After-LIFE Conservation Plan
Publication: Layman report Layman report


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version