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A natural salt marsh at Holkham, Norfolk

Sea lavender is conspicuous on a natural salt marsh at Holkham, Norfolk. This is one of the species that is deficient in marshes created by managed coastal realignment.

Man-made salt marshes, ground heat, storms

16 October 2012

This week in the Planet Earth Podcast: why salt marshes are so important, but are difficult to recreate; how storms are made; and why the ground beneath our feet could provide decades of natural heating.

Before many of them were cleared for agriculture, salt marshes used to cover huge areas around all of the UK's major estuaries. Today, there are just 40 square kilometres of salt marsh left in the whole of England and Wales.

They're valuable, because their huge diversity of plants provide food for a range of coastal creatures, they're used as a nursery by shrimps and young fish, and in the winter, birds like geese and red shank use them as breeding grounds. Not just that, but they defend local villages from coastal flooding, and those on the north Norfolk coast in the UK are popular with holidaymakers.

Indeed, they're so important that the country has a legal requirement to replace natural salt marsh lost to coastal erosion with man-made salt marsh. The only snag is that recreating them isn't easy. Richard Hollingham went to Stiffkey on the north Norfolk coast to meet salt marsh expert Alistair Grant from the University of East Anglia to find out more.

Later, Diarmad Campbell from NERC's British Geological Survey and consultant thermogeologist, Dave Banks, tell Richard about untapped heat beneath our feet, which could be used to heat our homes and offices.


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The Planet Earth podcast - 'Man-made salt marshes, ground heat, storms'.

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A full text transcript is available.

Finally, surprising news about how storms develop: instead of wet soils fuelling storms, Chris Taylor from NERC's Centre for Ecology & Hydrology recently discovered that afternoon storms are more likely to develop when soils are parched. Sue Nelson went to talk to him.

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