Nature Networks - information on marine projects

Nature Networks is a three-year programme funded by Welsh Government which aims to address the nature emergency in Wales through increasing biodiversity, improving the condition of protected sites and enhancing the resilience and connectivity of our habitats and species.

The programme runs from 2022 to 2025 and covers terrestrial, freshwater and marine habitats. NRW is working with landowners, partners and other stakeholders to implement management measures that address our objectives and make a real difference to the environment of Wales.

The programme budget over three years is around £45 Million, funding a portion which NRW bids for annually as well as the Welsh Government Nature Network grant programme administered by the National Heritage Lottery Fund.

While some of the budget has been allocated to boost our existing conservation management of protected sites, targeted projects have also been created to focus attention on vulnerable species and habitats.

Below are the marine projects – read about the nature projects on land.

Projects at sea

Bait collection

Bait collection activities we are most concerned about are digging for worms, boulder turning and crab tiling. The project will pin down evidence on the impacts of these activities on Marine Protected Areas and implement management measures where needed. In one area, where we do have evidence for harmful bait collection - the Gann, in Pembrokeshire - we will aim to ensure that this activity is sustainably managed.

Welsh Acoustic Marine Mammal Survey

Marine mammals, like harbour porpoise and bottlenose dolphin, use sound to communicate and orientate themselves. We want to improve our understanding of how background noise levels can impact these mammals by using specialised acoustic recording equipment. The project will start in the North Anglesey Marine Special Area of Conservation, before moving on to the other two SACs designated for harbour porpoise.

Marine litter and derelict vessel prevention

Marine litter is a problem in many MPAs and one focus is to tackle the issue of derelict boats which can affect MPAs through loss of habitat extent, microplastics and pollutants from oil, diesel and anti-fouling paint. The project will initially map the location of derelict boats, and then work with partners and other stakeholders to identify guidance and a process for vessel removal in a targeted area.

Investigations into the decline of species and habitats

Within our MPAs, some habitats and species are in decline. Our projects will look at key areas of focus, with the aim of helping these habitats and species to recover.

  • Maerl in the Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire Marine SAC.
  • Sponges in the Menai Strait and Conwy Bay SAC.
  • Horse Mussel beds, in the Pen Llyn a’r Sarnau (PLAS) SAC.
  • Sandbank diversity across the MPA Network.
  • Herring in Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire Marine SAC.

Invasive Non-Native Species Biosecurity Planning

Building on the work already done for biosecurity planning in Pen Llyn a’r Sarnau SAC, this project will work with key stakeholders to create and implement 6 biosecurity plans for the following Marine Protected Areas:  Dee Estuary SAC, Menai Strait and Conwy Bay SAC, Cardigan Bay SAC, Pembrokeshire Marine SAC, Carmarthen Bay and Estuaries SAC and the Severn Estuary SAC.

Rumney Great Wharf Polders

This project seeks to restore saltmarsh along the Rumney Great Wharf by reinstating and extending the sedimentation polders. Polders involve the installation of fences in a rectangular pattern, to reduce water movement, which will allow saltmarsh to form over time.

Coastal Squeeze

Sea levels are predicted to rise at increasing rates due to the effects of climate change. Inevitably this will have an impact on those habitats found closest to the sea, which would ordinarily adapt naturally. However, sea defences, railways and roads sometimes prevent the habitat from behaving naturally, and with increasing inundation, degradation and loss will occur - a process known as Coastal Squeeze. This project aims to understand how ‘Coastal Squeeze’ is likely to impact the Marine Protected Areas, and will be used to inform the future management of our coasts and habitats.

Improving Marine Conservation Advice

Marine conservation advice is legal advice that influences the way we manage our marine protected areas. Conservation objectives within the advice explain what we are trying to achieve for each feature in a site and this project will help us improve our knowledge of the condition of our features and ensure that we set accurate conservation objectives for sites to be sustainably managed.

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