A UEA study, commissioned by the Broads Authority, has shown that the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads are a host for a quarter of the rare animal and plant species in the United Kingdom.

The study, carried out by the School of Environmental Sciences, is believed to be the first complete audit of the species present in the Broads. It combined data collected from research over the last 12 months by the team from UEA with records dating back to the 17th century.

The study identified over 11,000 species living in the Broads, of which over 1,500 are rare and would probably be extinct were it not for the existence of the Broads. It also discovered 66 species that have not been seen anywhere else in Britain, despite the area making up only 0.4% of its land mass.

Despite the possibility of hundreds of species having disappeared, after not being recorded in over two decades, the discovery of species such as the previously unrecognised Broads Dolly Fly, the Slender Amber Snail and the Scarce Marsh Neb shows the ecological importance of the Broads. The research found that 63% of the 1,500 rare species are reliant on the freshwater in the Broads, which may be problematic if sea level rise encroaches as predicted, due to climate change.

However, Dr Hannah Mossman of the School of Environmental Sciences is confident of preserving many of the species, and said: “This study has shown we can identify which of the hundreds of rare species are most threatened by climate change, and that we can map these to show which parts of the Broads could be priorities for protection from sea level rise, based on their vulnerable biodiversity.”