Individual study: Response of shrubby sea-blite Suaeda vera to cutting on a sea wall flood defence at Goldhanger, Essex, England
Gardiner T. (2011) Response of shrubby sea-blite Suaeda vera to cutting on a sea wall flood defence at Goldhanger, Essex, England. Conservation Evidence, 8, 1-5
In the UK, shrubby sea-blite Suaeda vera is a Nationally Scarce species restricted to coastal localities in eastern and southern England. It is locally common on the tidal face of sea wall flood defences in Essex. However, its dense bushy growth makes the engineering inspection of these important defences by the Environment Agency (the government agency responsible for flood defence maintenance) difficult. In consultation with Natural England it was agreed that S. vera could be flailed (cut) to a height of 30 cm along a 2.8 km length of sea wall in Essex to ease inspection, and as a trial to assess S. vera response to such cutting. The response three months after cutting was encouraging with 94% of cut plants showing signs of regrowth. Eight months after cutting the mean height of the cut shrubs (79.7 cm) was about equivalent to that of uncut S. vera (82.1 cm) in a nearby uncut area (of similar height prior to cutting), indicating good vertical growth after flailing. However, the mean width of the cut shrubs (115.8 cm) was less than that of the uncut plants (177.4 cm). This is attributed to the cutting method (using a side-arm flail which reduced plant width in places, as well as removing the often broader, mid-crown growth), which coincidentally further eased inspection. These short-term results suggest that a one-off cut of S. vera can be used to allow sea wall inspection without detrimental damage to S. vera populations.