Basin habitat restoration project is worth its salt

Work to clear the saltpan pools finished just before Christmas, and waders and ducks started to return almost immediately.Work to clear the saltpan pools finished just before Christmas, and waders and ducks started to return almost immediately.
Work to clear the saltpan pools finished just before Christmas, and waders and ducks started to return almost immediately.
A project to improve natural habitat at Montrose Basin has revealed part of Montrose’s industrial past as well as having an immediate and dramatic effect in supporting local wildlife.

The saltpans at Sa’ty Dyke have been returned to open water following a project to restore coastal habitats at the basin, with support from the Scottish Wildlife Trust and £150,000 from the Scottish Government’s Nature Restoration Fund.

The scheme was completed in December, with the overgrown saltmarsh area cleared.

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Following the early positive signs of returning wildlife, it is anticipated the impact will be long-lasting.

​The saltmarsh had become overgrown and choked with reeds.​The saltmarsh had become overgrown and choked with reeds.
​The saltmarsh had become overgrown and choked with reeds.

Dating back to the 15th century, the saltworks supported the local, once thriving salmon industry. The transition saltmarsh area floods at high tide and salt would have been extracted from the pools by a process of evaporation.

These had become choked with rushes and reeds in recent years, closing off the areas of open water.

As the pools filled in, the areas of saltmarsh around them changed and as the rushes and reeds took over other specialist salt-tolerant plants were no longer able to flourish.

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The clearance work has reopened these areas, which are already attracting species of waders and ducks.

Almost half of Angus and Dundee’s salt marsh habitat can be found on the Montrose Basin nature reserve, so it is a crucial part of the local ecosystem.

An Angus Council spokesperson said: “Transition saltmarsh is an important habitat, forming part of a saltmarsh network across the Montrose Nature Reserve, with the pools providing unique habitat as a feeding site and refuge for multiple wader species including lapwing, redshank, greenshank, oystercatcher, grey heron and little egret.

“Duck species also benefit as well as swallows, sand martins and house martins which feed on the many invertebrates that thrive in the wet conditions.

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"Changes will be monitored over the coming years and months as the habitat reaches its full potential.”

Visitors to Scottish Wildlife Trust Montrose Basin Visitor Centre will be able to see the changes at the restored habitat too as the saltmarsh is visible from the centre’s viewing windows.

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