SOMERSET’S ‘BRILLIANT COAST APPEAL’

Somerset Wildlife Trust (SWT) has just launched its Somerset’s Brilliant Coast appeal which aims to deliver vital funds to explore and better understand the county’s coastline in order to protect its diverse habitats and wealth of species that are facing many threats – the need for reinforced coastal flood defenses, tidal and nuclear energy generation and the conversion of coastal habitats for development to name just a few.

Contrary to what might be the public perception, Somerset’s 73km coastline is an extraordinarily diverse place, rich in habitats, wildlife, world-class geology and historical heritage. However, little is known about our coastal wildlife and, coupled with increased development pressures, this lack of awareness could lead to poor decision-making for its future, which may have irreversible consequences for wildlife further across the county.

Based on a successful pilot year of activity along the coast, Somerset Wildlife Trust has been able to develop a conservation plan for Somerset’s Coast. A key part of this is developing the existing knowledge base of coastal wildlife by undertaking systematic surveys of some of our more difficult-to-reach-environments.  The Trust has received a contribution from the Peter De Haan Charitable Trust that will support this much-needed coastal wildlife survey work over the next three years, however it still needs £85,000 in funds to carry out the necessary surveys to increase the scientific evidence base on, and raise awareness of the importance of, Somerset’s coastal wildlife.

Michele Bowe, Director of Conservation at SWT, explains why the appeal is so important and hopes that the people of Somerset feel inspired to contribute to it:

“If you ask your neighbour what they know about Somerset’s coast, it is quite possible they may wonder if the county actually has one. Or they may proffer a terse description of a nuclear power station sandwiched between holiday parks, with little of interest in between. But if you take the time to look more carefully you’ll find a wealth of natural treasures, which are now in need of our urgent and long-term support.

“For many years Somerset’s coastline has been largely misunderstood, and its extreme ecological importance underappreciated. We are working hard to discover and spread awareness of the wealth of species, habitats and history that it hosts. We know that there are sharks, seals and thousands of migratory birds, but our knowledge of the intertidal zone is extremely limited. In the last year we have been carrying out exploratory surveys, including Somerset’s first dive survey in more than 30 years. Even with this limited effort we found that our coast is home to the stalked jellyfish – a new species for Somerset and one of national conservation importance.

“It is vital that we gain more funds for our research and survey, as all the information that we gather is essential in developing an evidence base that will assist with the long-term protection of the county’s coastline, by empowering local landowners, authorities and developers to make more informed decisions about the future of our coast.  We know the appeal target is ambitious, but it is one we are very focussed on achieving, and hope that the enthusiasm and interest we have experienced so far will also encourage people to donate generously.”

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Somerset’s Brilliant Coast Appeal hopes to gain support from existing Trust members, conservations enthusiasts, and the wider public whether their passion is the county’s iconic wildlife, its diverse habitats or the world-class geology that underpins our fantastically varied landscape.

For more information on the Appeal and some examples of where monies raised will be spent, please visit Somerset Wildlife Trust’s website: www.somersetwildlife.org/coastappeal.

Any gift given to Somerset’s Brilliant Coast Appeal will go directly to helping SWT carryout critical survey work along the coast and supporting the wildlife here and throughout the county.
You can also donate securely by card on our website at www.somersetwildlife.org/coastappeal or by telephoning 01823 652429. Every donation, whatever the size, will make a difference.

PHOTO: Dunlin by Tom Marshall.

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