FEATURE: December storm surge 2013 - Impact on local wildlife one year on

The December 2013 storm surge left severe flooding at Skegness' Gibraltar Point Nature Reserve. Pictured is the aftermath at  Mill Pond Road near Mere Hide. Credit:  Barrie Wilkinson.
The December 2013 storm surge left severe flooding at Skegness' Gibraltar Point Nature Reserve. Pictured is the aftermath at Mill Pond Road near Mere Hide. Credit: Barrie Wilkinson.

This week’s Skegness and Spilsby Standard contains a feature special on last year’s tidal surge that hit the Lincolnshire Coast in December 2013.

The storm surge hit the coast of Skegness on Thursday, December 5.

The flooding left from the December 2013 Storm surge at Mere Meadow and freshwater marsh at Gibraltar Point National Nature Reserve, Skegness. Photo credit: George Gregory.

The flooding left from the December 2013 Storm surge at Mere Meadow and freshwater marsh at Gibraltar Point National Nature Reserve, Skegness. Photo credit: George Gregory.

Here we look at the impact it has had on wildlife at Skegness’ Gibraltar Point National Nature Reserve.

The tidal surge of December 2013 had a devastating impact on the nature reserve. Water from the North Sea surged over the reserve, flooding freshwater habitats with seawater and inundating many areas of the reserve.

The visitor centre was flooded and severely damaged causing all activities held at the centre to be suspended or re-located. In the following months Lincolnshire County Council and the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust carefully surveyed the damage before deciding to build a new visitor centre and a design for a new visitor centre has now been approved.

The new site, which will be built on stilts to prevent future flooding will have a roof top decking area and may be welcoming visitors as early as 2016.

A key sea defence on the reserve known as the Bulldog Bank was breached by the tidal surge causing an area known as the Freshwater Marsh to become flooded with saltwater, dramatically changing the habitat of the Marsh.

Following the flood the saltwater became trapped in the marsh by the remains of the bank and other obstacles to drainage that encircled it.

Saltwater also flooded other areas, including the wetland habitat of Mere’s Meadow.

Throughout the following spring and summer it became apparent that vegetation change had been significant with a general decline in freshwater species, including orchids, buttercups and cowslip.

However, this decline has allowed some saltwater species to fill the niche.

New species recorded include sea meadow grass, sea purslane, sea aster and club rush.

The most astonishing discovery came when water voles were sighted swimming in the brackish waters of the Freshwater Marsh. Trust staff had feared for their survival.

The endangered natterjack toad (first discovered by Joseph Banks in Lincolnshire) also survived the tidal surge, which came as a great relief to staff and volunteers.

The long term effects of the tidal surge on the habitats of Gibraltar Point are still being assessed.

Changes to the ecosystem have been profound with brackish habitats replacing freshwater habitats in large areas.

However, nature has shown that it is both resilient and adaptable to changes wrought by the tidal surge.

This versatility has served as a source of inspiration for the people involved with the national nature reserve at Gibraltar Point.

The nature reserve is now fully open, with a porta cabin, toilets and a catering van in the car park selling hot and cold food and drink.

The catering van is open every day from 10am - 3pm, though may close in bad weather.