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Monday, 12 November, 2001, 18:45 GMT
Flooding to create nature reserve
Tamar Valley
Three breaches will be made along the River Tamar
Acres of National Trust land in Cornwall are to be deliberately flooded to create a nature reserve.

About 35 acres will be flooded to provide more space for the River Tamar on the Devon and Cornwall border to overflow on to part of the National Trust's Cotehele estate.

The flooded area will then gradually become a marine life habitat over two decades.

It is the largest area in the South West to be submerged in a project designed to alleviate the effects of climate change and to encourage rare wildlife.

flooded tree
Climate changes have increased risks of flooding
The land involved in the project was reclaimed from the Tamar 150 years ago for agriculture. Now it is to be returned to the river.

Three breaches will be created in the embankment to allow the waters of the Tamar to flood in.

The flooded area will become a mud flat and then, after about 20 years, an extensive reed bed.

Reeds are important for rare species like the otter. They are relatively scarce in Britain, with many being lost to farming or development.

Climate change

Brian Muelaner of the National Trust said: "We'll have a very rich and diverse flora, with reed buntings, various warblers, lots of birds and lots of amphibians.

"Hopefully, we can also bring back the water vole, which sadly seems to be very scarce at the moment."

Climate change has led to stormier weather, and an increased risk of flooding.

The managed retreat will help alleviate this by providing more areas for rivers to overflow without damaging property.

Marine habitats

Dr Tony Stebbing from the Centre for Climate Change Impact Forecasting said: "We're going to see far more habitats released to the marine environment, as it were, in the future.

"This is simply because the cost of protecting them is going to be greater than the value of the land itself."

The land is due to be flooded in June 2002.

The National Trust said access to the Cotehele estate will be unaffected, as it plans to put in a walkway.

Click here to go to BBC Devon Online
See also:

09 Jul 01 | Sci/Tech
In search of Cornwall's sharks
11 Oct 99 | Sci/Tech
Nature blamed for melting ice
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