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Project gets underway to improve water quality at Special Area of Conservation

27 Nov 2023 3 minute read
The new fences at Cemlyn lagoon.

A new project is underway to improve water quality in two coastal lagoons that are important habitats for rare plants and wildlife.

The partnership project is working to reduce pollution at the highly protected Cemlyn Bay marine Special Area of Conservation (SAC) on Anglesey.

Recent monitoring conducted by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) officers found high levels of nutrients and the presence of green algae within the lagoons.

Officers were concerned that faeces from grazing livestock in the surrounding area was running off the land and washing into the lagoons.


To combat the problem, over a mile and a half (2667m) of fencing has been installed on farmland at the site to prevent cattle and sheep from entering the lagoons and the streams and ditches that feed them.

The fencing has created buffer zones between livestock and the water to reduce the amount of manure and nutrients that drain down into the lagoons.

New drinking troughs supplying clean water have also been provided for the animals.

National Trust Cymru which own the land has been working with NRW and tenant farmers to plant new trees and hedgerows to reduce the amount of water and nutrients draining off the land. These will also create new habitat and wildlife corridors to enhance biodiversity.

Nesting birds

Staff from the North Wales Wildlife Trust, who manage the nature reserve on behalf of National Trust Cymru, are also hopeful that the project will have a positive impact on ground nesting birds by improving surrounding biodiversity.

Andrea Winterton, Marine Services Manager from Natural Resources Wales said: “Improving water quality on our coasts and in our rivers, lakes and lagoons is one of our highest priorities, and it is particularly important for our most protected conservation sites.

“These sites, like the Cemlyn Bay SAC, support rare and iconic species and we must take urgent action to protect them and reverse the devastating decline in biodiversity.

“The project is an excellent example of how working in partnership can achieve positive outcomes and meet the needs of both nature and people whose livelihoods depend on the land.”

As well as a marine Special Area of Conservation, the area is also a Nature Reserve, a site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Protection Area due to the rare birds, plants, and aquatic species it supports.

This includes sea kale, sea campion, yellow horned-poppy, spiralled tassleweed, and birds such as sandwich, common and arctic terns.

Guto Roberts, Lead Ranger for Ynys Môn and Llŷn, National Trust Cymru said: “This project has enabled us to work with tenant farmers to improve the water quality of the lagoon enabling us to increase biodiversity of the area thus creating a better habitat for seabirds along with other important species at Cemlyn.

“We’re working closely with North Wales Wildlife Trust to monitor the site and to continue working together to maintain these valuable habitats.”

The project has been funded by the Welsh Government through the Nature and Climate Emergencies Capital Programme.

The programme supports a number of environmental priorities including biodiversity and protected sites, peatland restoration, metal mine remediation, fisheries, water quality and national forests.

This financial year, NRW has committed to spend £25m through the programme, including £15m for improvements within the water environment (including water quality) through its Water Capital Programme.

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