The review is divided into 5 chapters;
- Engagement was a large part of the work undergone throughout the SMILE project. Engagement took many forms and this chapter covers the activities undertaken, outputs, and methods of engagement.
- Clean and Safe
- This section delves into factors which potentially risk the cleanliness and safety of the Solway Firth’s waters, stressors to the marine environment, and ways in which water quality can be monitored or maintained for both bathing and the production of consumable shellfish. Maintaining clean and safe waters is paramount to sustaining the biodiversity of the ecosystem within the firth.
- quality and health of the Solway Firth. It also describes human activities which are potentially hazardous to the ecosystem
- Healthy and Biologically Diverse
- The marine environment is extremely diverse, and this section illustrates that diversity, from birds to fish and more, which can be found in and around the Firth. This also includes a section on how this biodiversity is being protected through designations, both at a national and international level. Biodiversity makes the Solway special, and it requires protection for future sustainability for the Firth.
- biological components of the Solway Firth and their recent trends and pressures.
- The physical section of the review describes the physical non-living elements of the Solway. Some of these elements are consistent over time, such as geology. Others are consistent but can be altered by physical or environmental changes, such as water circulation, and some are adapting as time progresses, such as coastal change.
- non-living environmental characteristics of the Solway Firth
- Socio-economic aspects can have a huge impact on the management of an area. Depending on the industries, traffic, recreation or heritage (to name a few examples) management and planning will be altered significantly. Similarly, some activities can work in harmony while remaining sustainable whereas other conflict, becoming volatile, unsustainable or damaging the environment. This section outlines the socio-economic factors in and around the Solway.
- Each section in the ‘Productive’ chapter looks at a sector which has a direct benefit to the local economy, the economic contribution; main activities and geographic distribution; socio-economic and environmental pressures and impact of human activity; and regional look forward which provides a qualitative analysis of future opportunities and challenges that will impact both the sector and the Solway Firth.
These four chapters highlight the four main themes for the regional state of the Solway assessment (the Solway Review) as based on Scotland’s Marine Atlas (Baxter et al, 2011), and the Clyde Region Marine Assessment (Mills et al, 2017). They cover the topics necessary to include in plans which focus on working towards the UK’s shared vision of ‘clean, safe, healthy, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas’.
It is worth noting, however, that the Solway Firth and the surrounding area is incredibly diverse, with some features not fitting into any of the categories highlighted above, but still forming an important part of the Solway. For example, folklore and local stories are a significant feature of the Solway Firth and local communities’ identity. Both true historic tales and magical stories are frequent on the Scottish and Cumbrian sides of the Solway Firth and often have a physical marker on the landscape such a cave, boulder, tidal feature etc. Although there are many stories about the Firth, which help contribute to local culture, and potentially attract visitors to the area, they are not fully discussed in the Review given that they are not strictly a feature and the specific socio-economic contribution is difficult to measure. Physical elements which exist in and around the Solway are discussed in their relevant section.
All aspects of the marine environment are interconnected. Without the geology and coastal features of the Solway, including sediments etc, we would not have the habitats, and therefore the species which live around the Firth. Without the unique tidal range and water circulation features in the Solway, saltmarsh, waterfowl, seabirds, and other species may not thrive around the Solway Firth. The impacts of one process, change, accident, or activity can positively or negatively impact or influence other features or factors in the immediate and wider marine environment.
For example, areas managed for conservation purposes, such as nature reserves, highlight the natural features of an area and can help increase tourism, which has local benefits through increased revenue generated from visitors. It can also benefit the well-being of locals who become more aware of the nature within the sites. There are also benefits for wildlife through protecting and conserving habitats and species, and limiting the risks of invasive non-native species colonising the area.
On the other hand, increased visitors could potentially increase pressure on infrastructure and raise issues such as noise, pollution, and litter. Limited access within protected sites could be seen as having a negative impact on those hoping to utilise the natural capital of the area and the ecosystem services delivered.
These examples of impacts, both positive and negative, due to a protected site or conserved area, help to illustrate the interconnectedness within marine and coastal environments.
Image; Portling looking across to England. © G. Reid/ Solway Firth Partnership