Case study:Alkborough tidal defence scheme

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Location: 53° 42' 3", -0° 41' 32"
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Project overview

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Status Complete
Project web site
Themes Flood risk management, Social benefits
Country England
Main contact forename Volker
Main contact surname Stevin
Main contact user ID
Contact organisation Environment Agency
Contact organisation web site
Partner organisations Natural England, Associated British Ports, North Lincolnshire Council, Defra, Yorkshire Forward, Heritage Lottery Fund, European Union (EU)
Parent multi-site project
This is a parent project
encompassing the following
Alkborough area

Project summary

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Alkborough Flats are on the south bank of the Humber Estuary, on the eastern side of the confluence between the River Trent and the River Humber. The site is around 440 hectares of agricultural land, of which approximately 375 hectares are protected by a flood embankment constructed in the late 1950s.

The Alkborough tidal defence scheme increases the level of flood protection to an area stretching from the Humber Bridge to Goole up the tidal River Ouse and as far as Keadby Bridge on the tidal River Trent. The scheme features include a 20 metre-wide breach of the existing flood bank, a 1,500 metre length of lowered embankment or spillway and a new section of floodbank to protect assets at the edge of the site. The scheme has been designed to: reduce the impact of sea level rise; safeguard the internationally important nature conservation interest of the Humber by creating new wetland habitat; provide a focus for education and access opportunities for local communities.

Monitoring surveys and results

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A monitoring programme funded in the first three years via this project, examining the physical and biological development of the newly created habitat at Alkborough Flats, began in summer 2007. Although the project had an existing programme of monitoring in place, this was primarily targeted towards the delivery of extreme water level reductions and the establishment of the basic habitat types. This project has meant that we have been able to develop the most comprehensive monitoring programme across the widest range of parameters of any managed realignment site in Europe.

The design work for the monitoring programme was agreed by a team made up of key stakeholders and partner organisations. Work on agreeing the programme started in November 2006 with a workshop meeting and was agreed in early 2007. This includes a topographic and sedimentological survey, fish and benthic community analysis and analysis of spatial patterns in the distribution of feeding and roosting birds. The monitoring report attached as Appendix B1.5 details the findings of the second survey, conducted in 2008/2009.

Lessons learnt

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The key findings at Alkborough are:

  1. Sediment accretion within the realignment site is continuing but at a slower rate than was initially recorded in 2007/8. Much of the site is now at an elevation of 3.1 m or more. Accretion levels on the mudflat outside the site can be considered stable with the exception of the infilling of a particularly low lying section of the mudflat where significant accretion has taken place.
  2. The sediments both inside and outside the realignment site are described as fine-coarse silts, with fine sands being present in some areas, and are typical of the area. No changes in particle size were noted over time although water content and sediment organic content decreased inside the site between 2007 and 2008.
  3. The benthic communities are impoverished (low diversity, abundance and biomass) and reflect the low salinity and high turbidity of this part of the estuary. Outside the site, the infaunal species and their abundances are typical for this area with Heterochaeta costata and Paranais litoralis being the dominant species. Inside the realignment site, the community is dominated by invertebrate species typically associated with freshwater and terrestrial environments. However, infaunal estuarine species (predominantly P. litoralis) are present and widespread throughout the site.
  4. High tidal elevation and reduced flooding frequency appear to favour colonisation by vegetation. Whilst a significant amount of perennial rye grass (Lolium perenne) still exists, a total of 6 salt tolerant species were found including Phragmites australis, Aster tripolium, Atriplex prostrata, Ranunculus sceleratus, Puccinellia maritima and Rumex obtusifolius. Of these species, P. australis was the most common and widely distributed and was generally found along the edges of old agricultural drains.
  5. The conditions within the site have led to the development of a mosaic of generally sheltered habitats, not present on the established mudflats outside the site, which have attracted a variety of bird, fish and epifaunal invertebrate species. Many of the fish species present are typically associated with freshwater and were not found in samples outside the site although a number of euryhaline fish were also found. Commonly occurring species included flounder and eel and the size distribution of flounder suggests that the site is acting as a nursery for this species. This is a valuable function of the site considering the historic habitat loss elsewhere in the estuary. The high densities of Neomysis integer caught suggest that this species is an important food source rather than the benthic invertebrates which are not thought to be present at sufficient densities to support the number of birds using the site.
  6. Of the birds present, 16 species of waders use the site for feeding, 5 of which also use the site for roosting. Of these, lapwing, curlew, redshank and dunlin were the most frequently recorded. 18 species of wildfowl used the site for feeding, with 13 also roosting. Shelduck, teal, wigeon and heron were the most frequently occurring species. Particularly high numbers of golden plover were noted during November 2008. A number of the species using the site are of conservation significance and classed as Annex 1 species under the Habitats Directive. There is a broad association between bird distribution and habitat type with golden plover and curlew generally feeding in the infrequently flooded grassy areas, away from most other species. However, the majority of bird activity is in one sector which contains a wide variety of habitats. It is therefore difficult to draw conclusions about habitat preferences or use for individual species.
  7. The Alkborough site has the dual aim of flood defence and compensation for habitat loss due to coastal squeeze. That is, replacement of mudflat habitat. Given the site design, the elevation and the restricted flooding, it is unlikely that this will be achieved in the long term and there is already evidence that the site will become vegetated. However, the site does appear to be acting as a nursery area for fish and is a significant feeding and roosting area for birds. In this respect, the development of the site appears to have been beneficial to this region of the estuary which is otherwise largely characterised by narrow mudflats with species poor communities and, in most areas, little vegetation.

Image gallery

During works_1
During works_2

Catchment and subcatchment


River basin district Humber
River basin Louth Grimsby and Ancholme


River name Skitter Bk / E Halton Bk from Ulceby Skitter to Humber Estuary
Area category 10 - 100 km²
Area (km2)
Maximum altitude category Less than 100 m
Maximum altitude (m) 44
44 m
0.044 km
4,400 cm
Dominant geology Calcareous
Ecoregion Great Britain
Dominant land cover Arable and Horticulture
Waterbody ID GB104029067650


Name Alkborough
WFD water body codes
WFD (national) typology
WFD water body name
Pre-project morphology
Reference morphology
Desired post project morphology
Heavily modified water body No
National/international site designation
Local/regional site designations
Protected species present No
Invasive species present No
Species of interest
Dominant hydrology
Dominant substrate
River corridor land use
Average bankfull channel width category
Average bankfull channel width (m)
Average bankfull channel depth category
Average bankfull channel depth (m)
Mean discharge category
Mean annual discharge (m3/s)
Average channel gradient category
Average channel gradient
Average unit stream power (W/m2)

Project background

Reach length directly affected (m)
Project started 2005
Works started
Works completed
Project completed
Total cost category 10 - 50 k€
Total cost (k€) £11.1m
"£" is not declared as a valid unit of measurement for this property.
Benefit to cost ratio
Funding sources Flood Defence Grant-in-Aid, EU Interreg, Regional Development Agency

Cost for project phases

Phase cost category cost exact (k€) Lead organisation Contact forename Contact surname
Investigation and design
Stakeholder engagement and communication
Works and works supervision
Post-project management and maintenance

Supplementary funding information

Funding for the scheme has come from the Environment Agency via the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra,) Yorkshire Forward, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the European Union (EU) through the Interreg programme. The Alkborough Flats project is one of five being funded by the EU through the Interreg programme to promote new approaches to the impacts of sea level rise. Associated British Ports (ABP) have also contributed by allowing some of their land to be used as part of the scheme.

Reasons for river restoration

Mitigation of a pressure Flood and coastal erosion protection
Other reasons for the project


Structural measures
Bank/bed modifications
Floodplain / River corridor
Planform / Channel pattern
Other Salt marsh and mudflat restoration
Non-structural measures
Management interventions
Social measures (incl. engagement)


Hydromorphological quality elements

Element When monitored Type of monitoring Control site used Result
Before measures After measures Qualitative Quantitative

Biological quality elements

Element When monitored Type of monitoring Control site used Result
Before measures After measures Qualitative Quantitative
Invertebrates No Yes Yes Yes No Deterioration

Physico-chemical quality elements

Element When monitored Type of monitoring Control site used Result
Before measures After measures Qualitative Quantitative

Any other monitoring, e.g. social, economic

Element When monitored Type of monitoring Control site used Result
Before measures After measures Qualitative Quantitative

Monitoring documents

Additional documents and videos

Additional links and references

Link Description

Supplementary Information

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