Abstract The Wash, straddling the counties of Norfolk and Lincolnshire, is the most important estuary for wildlife in the UK. It supports a peak count of over 350,000 non-breeding waterbirds, including internationally important numbers of 17 species. With a little planning, it can reward visitors with magnificent wildlife spectacles such as high-tide wader roosts and the morning and evening flights of Brent Branta bernicla and Pink-footed Geese Anser brachyrynchus. The Wash has been subject to significant threats in the past through a long history of land claim and over-exploitation of shellfish, but since the introduction of stronger legal protection and better regulation, these particular threats have reduced. Nevertheless, there is evidence that dredging for shellfish may have caused a shift in the shorebird assemblage from one dominated by shellfish-feeders to one dominated by birds that feed on worms and other small invertebrates. While land claim has now stopped, sea-level rise and isostatic change may lead to demands for bigger sea defences. The UK’s withdrawal from the European Union is a further concern, should the legal protection through conservation legislation be weakened.
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