MAJOR conservation work has been completed to help retain the saltmarsh habitat of an island for the next 100 years.

Work on Northey Island started in July and it took two months to lower the southern end of the bank to allow for saltmarsh growth.

An estimated 0.17 hectares of important saltmarsh will be created, providing essential habitat for a huge range of insects, birds and plants while also improving the natural flood defences for the historic coastline.

As sea level rises this century, the saltmarsh will now be able to naturally migrate inland, where previously it would have become trapped and eventually would have been lost between the rising sea level and the embankment.

Daniel Leggett, the National Trust’s coastal projects manager, said: “As a charity, the National Trust was founded to protect places of natural beauty and we are pleased to have been able to create and protect saltmarsh habitat in the Blackwater Estuary.

“Saltmarsh has such environmental, cultural and historic importance in Essex, and space has now been made to allow nature to function fully, adding to diversity and being able to look after itself better in the face of accelerating sea level rise.

“Saltmarsh habitats across the east of England are under threat from rising sea levels and climate change, and if we do nothing then most of the saltmarsh will be lost over the next century.

“The trust is proud to play its part to restore a healthy, beautiful natural environment and meet the needs of an environment under pressure.

“We want to see our precious habitats survive and thrive into the future.”

Rising sea levels mean that the existing sea bank along the south of the island was being regularly overtopped by high tides.

Similar work was successfully carried out by the National Trust on the south-east of the island nearly 30 years ago. The trust says it will continue to monitor the new saltmarsh to measure the success of the project.