North-west European estuaries are multi-user environments requiring appropriate management to ensure the best use of resources amongst the various legitimate stakeholders. As this varies along an estuary, severe and less-severe conflicts between users will occur in particular areas and so management actions need to reflect this variability. Estuarine managers and planners therefore need information on the main areas of spatial and sectoral uses and conflicts within their estuary for the targeting of resources, as well as information on appropriate tools needed to address these problems.
The use of conflict matrices is to be a valuable tool for the initial assessment of potential user conflict, spatial extent, severity and management focus. The tool is also a useful, transparent medium to inform stakeholders of the basis for management options and decisions.
The conflict analysis was undertaken for the four TIDE estuaries through estuary-specific Regional Working Groups
(RWGs). These groups included ‘experts’ representing the main areas of estuarine ‘use’, e.g. nature conservation management, flood risk protection, the ports industry, navigation, and other important user groups including the diverse recreational user community, fisheries and the scientific community.
The conflict matrix process identified a series of conflict interactions that were present in a number of the management zones for the estuaries, these centring around:
- Conservation on Navigation;
- Conservation on Access;
- Access on Conservation;
- Flood Protection on Conservation;
- Navigation on Conservation.
However, whilst the conflict matrix process identified these core antagonisms between key sectoral uses, the spatial distribution of these was variable across some of the estuaries. The Humber in particular showed considerable dissimilarity with reduced conflict levels arising from navigation-related issues on Natura 2000 protection requirements and vice versa, this considered to be mainly due to the position of the main ports industry on the Humber being close to the mouth of the estuary and with non-accreting shipping channels in comparison to the other TIDE estuaries.
Furthermore, some specific interactions were observed that have implications for management provision. In particular, managed realignment was identified as having a potential impact on conservation protection requirements in adjacent terrestrial areas, industrial activity and residential housing provision in the immediate flood plain. Whilst the tool has undoubted merit in many situations in terms of mitigating or compensating for habitat losses and maintaining Natura 200 integrity, its success as a management solution requires both management focus and possibly additional stakeholder involvement.
The deployment of management measures therefore needs to be estuary and even zone specific and be targeted at sectoral pinch-points. In particular, the need for conservation protection raises several management conflicts with other uses, including the ports industry, flood protection requirements and recreational access to the estuary and vice versa. There is the possibility that measures employed to mitigate one management problem may affect others and as such, mechanisms are necessary to assist in stakeholder inclusion and conflict resolution as part of a wider integrative management strategy. This strategy needs to employ other methods, including the Ecosystem Services Approach which provides a common currency linking conflict areas and potential mitigatory measures.
The report therefore concludes that whilst north-west European estuaries present many generic management challenges, management initiatives need to be site-specific in order to accommodate both the natural and human systems. Furthermore, the Ecosystem Services and Conflict Matrix approaches employed in TIDE have the potential to be combined to assist in effective management. However, it is important to understand that measures employed to provide a management solution for a specific problem can also generate their own management issues. This is particularly the case for measures used to address flood protection, land claim offset and Natura 2000 requirements.
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