On The Ground Update: North Devon World Surfing Reserve

The North Devon World Surfing Reserve has created a unique stewardship project that aims to tackle one of the key threats to the surf ecosystem, water quality. Climate models predict, with a high degree of certainty, that the South West of the UK will experience increased heavy rainfall in short periods. This will increase the ‘runoff’ of rainwater into the sea around the North Devon World Surfing Reserve. Runoff occurs when heavy rainfall saturates the land, particularly in areas where natural vegetation has been removed, and carries polluted water through small tributaries towards the surf.

The project aims to restore local watersheds with nature-based solutions that help filter runoff and slow the flow of water during intense rainfall periods. This strategy will allow pollutants from sewage, agriculture runoff, and the urban environment to be filtered back into the groundwater as the original ecosystem intended. The restoration work will include up to 40 different natural feature interventions including willow leaky dams, woody debris dams, and willow tree restoration that will restore watershed habitat as well as filter polluted runoff.  As an additional benefit, these small natural feature dams capture plastics and other man-made materials that would otherwise end up in the ocean. These types of multi-benefit projects pose a relatively simple solution to the complex problem of climate change and shifting weather patterns.  Thanks to the work of the North Devon World Surfing Reserve, some of the UK’s best breaks will have cleaner water for generations to come.

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