It is the third hottest day on record in the UK and the cool saline mud oozing through my toes provides welcome relief from the beating sun. I am standing barefoot in a shallow pool in Europe’s largest coastal habitat restoration project, Wallasea Island in Essex . The 670-hectare (1,656-acre) expanse of salt marshes, lagoons and mudflats was formed using more than 3m tonnes of London clay excavated from the Crossrail tunnel network, almost half of the waste material from the entire project. In the heat, crowds of flamingos would not feel out of place, but the sweltering temperature is a gnawing reminder of how rising sea levels and the climate crisis will threaten the UK’s coastline. The problem is so grave that one Dutch government scientist has even proposed a 295-mile (475km) dam of the North Sea to protect large parts of western Europe. But projects such as Wallasea Island Wild Coast are a far less expensive, natural alternative to managing the rising water. Salt marshes are natural buffers against the wrath of the sea – especially in storm surge conditions – dramatically reducing wave height and soil erosion, as mangrove swamps do in tropical regions. Salt marshes […]

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