Cley Marshes nature reserve in Norfolk was flooded recently following a storm surge and staff had to close the reserve to visitors for five days.
A variety of species are likely to have been affected by the saltwater, particularly those that inhabit freshwater habitats.
“Benthic invertebrates (insects in the mud) are impacted by saltwater and so there is less food for the breeding birds,” said Sue Borges from Norfolk Wildlife Trust. “This goes all the way up the food chain to the high level predators.”
A number of terrestrial mammals are thought to have drowned, while amphibians are likely to have died as well due to their intolerance to salt.
The area is undergoing long-term change to a more saline environment and The Norfolk Wildlife Trust are trying to manage this transition to give habitats time to change and adapt, and to give species time to move.
This ‘managed retreat’ strategy may be sped up if there is an increase in the frequency of flooding due to climate change, and the freshwater habitats are unable to recover between the influxes of saltwater.