Natural England - Natural England Climate Change project and report

Natural England Climate Change project and report

There is a strong evidence base for climate change taking place, and it represents a significant threat to the natural world. Given Natural England’s role, we are conducting research to understand the potential impacts of climate change on the natural environment and what the possible responses to these could be.

Aerial view

Aerial View

The work in the Broads is one of four projects in different areas of England to identify those impacts and possible responses. The research identifies the features of the natural environment in the Broads that are of greatest value – wildlife, landscape, access, and recreation. Natural England acknowledges that these are the assets as viewed from the environmental perspective. There are a range of other attributes and values that people who live and work in the Broads attach to the area which are not covered by our work, but which we recognise as being of great importance.

Natural England considers that we must help the natural environment in the Norfolk Broads to adapt in the face of climate change as it published its report, on Tuesday 31 March 2009, into the likely climate change impacts in the Norfolk Broads.

"There is a clear need for Natural England to continue its work with Government, organisations with a stake in the Broads and local communities to develop integrated responses to climate change in this, the UK’s premier wetland. This research is just the beginning of the journey as we learn how to help the natural environment adapt to the impact of climate change across large areas," said Shaun Thomas, Natural England’s East of England Director.

The key findings of the report are that the Broads will over time become more brackish, with freshwater habitats changing to salty habitats; the coastal frontage will come under increased pressure from sea level rise and increased storminess; wetlands will be damaged by the repeated cycle of flooding and drought, and there will be the loss of some plants and animals and replacement with non-native and invasive species. Further impacts include changes to the Broads landscape, an increase in visitor numbers and a decline in the quality of the water space.

The report identifies actions to make the Broads more robust to climate change. These includes bringing existing habitats and species into a healthy state and increasing the extent of wetlands through habitat creation.

“This report emphasises that successful adaptation to climate change needs new policies and tools in place for the longer term, and we will work together with our partners to secure this - a future for the people, environment and economy of the Broads”, added Shaun.

The Broads report is one of four reports published by Natural England today that assess the impacts of climate change across four of England's 'Character Areas'*. The Shropshire Hills, Cumbria High Fells and Dorset Downs and Cranborne Chase are the three other areas covered by the project.

In the Norfolk Broads report, Natural England confirms its support for the current policy to maintain the current line of defence on the Eccles-Winterton stretch of coast, for at least 50 years, re-iterating that it is an adviser on flood risk policy and not the final decision-maker.

The climate change research has received support from other bodies such as the Broads Authority, Environment Agency and local communities - vital in the future of the Broads - who recognise the scale of challenge that climate change presents.

Frequently asked questions:

1. Which areas are included in the reports?
The Character Area Climate Change Project - is focussing on four different areas: Shropshire Hills; Dorset Downs and Cranborne Chase; Cumbria High Fells; and The Norfolk Broads.

2. What does the Broads report cover?
The report summarises the predicted changes in climate that we will see in the Broads and the impacts that these would have on the natural environment including:

  • Sea level rise threatening to reduce the existing area of coastal habitats and modify the floodplain habitats;

  • The frequency, penetration and duration of saline penetration increasing, reducing the capacity of natural systems to recover, and impacting the fishery and angling;

  • Increases in the risk of freshwater flooding due to extreme events with potential damage to many wetland habitats;

  • An increase in winter rainfall and annual temperature will increase the rate of erosion, this could compromise water quality and increase the need for waterway management;

  • In addition, indirect changes in response to climate change impact the natural environment of the Broads e.g. through changes in agriculture.

3. Who is responsible for decision making for coastal and flood risk management?
Defra sets national flood and erosion risk management policy. The Environment Agency co-ordinates and, along with local authorities, undertakes the delivery of that policy. Natural England are not decision makers for flood risk policies and schemes: they advise on the policies and schemes to ensure that the sustainable management of the natural environment is taken into account. It is not the intention, nor the role, of Natural England to make decisions about the long-term future of the Broads in isolation.

The reports:

The natural environment - adapting to climate changeexternal link

Responding to the impacts of climate change on the natural environment: The Broadsexternal link

Other documents which may be of interest:

Environment Agency and Natural England joint press release 23 June 2008: (30kb)pdf document [29.6 kb]

Defra statement on Norfolk Broads: (21kb)pdf document [21.1 kb]

Other links which may be of interest:

Environment Agencyexternal link

Environment Agency - Essex Estuarine Strategiesexternal link

North Norfolk Coast Coastal Habitat Management Plan (Final Report): (5.94mb)pdf document

Suffolk Coast and Estuaries Coastal Habitat Management Plan (Final Report): (8.16mb)pdf document

Defra - Shoreline Management Plansexternal link

Enquiries and further information please contact:

Victoria Perry on 01223 5333423 or email:

Andrea Perkins on 01284 762218 or email:

Press enquires please contact:

Linzee Kottman on: 0300 060 2058 mobile: 07824 475359 email: or;
Andrew Smith on: 0300 060 2060 mobile: 07920 138194 email:
Heather McMorland on 01733 455080 mobile: 07919 228388 email:

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