WILDLIFE experts have been celebrating all that is great and good about the River Severn.

At a special meeting held at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) at Slimbridge, representatives from the country’s leading conservation groups met to discuss the importance of the River Severn.

The meeting today was held ahead of the government’s announcement on its finalised shortlist for harnessing tidal power, which could include a 10-mile barrage.

Organisations such as the WWT, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the Wildlife Trusts, the National Trust, the Atlantic Salmon Trust and Friends of the Earth met to highlight to the government the impact a barrage could have on the Severn Estuary.

Martin Spray, chief executive of the WWT, said: "Following Peter Scott's example we're using this special place to inspire these influential people to make the right decisions for the future of the Severn.

"We're all aware of the difficult choices ahead of us. Now is the time to quantify the value of the Severn, think clever and keep the Severn working as a fully functioning ecosystem."

Experts claim that if a barrage were built across the River Severn, salmon, eels, shad and lamprey would become extinct and could cause irreparable damage to one of the country’s most unique ecosystems.

Andre Farrar, from the RSPB, said: "Climate change will bring change to the estuary, as it will every low-lying coast of the world. We have two choices - you can allow the environment and its wildlife to adapt, whilst harnessing renewable energy from the estuary in a sustainable manner, or you can build a 10m high barrage from Cardiff to Weston, destroying the estuary in its wake.

"The challenge is to harness the much-needed power of the Severn's tide and avoid destroying the nature of the estuary. Government has a chance to show real leadership and put the UK at the forefront of tidal power technology."

The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has already undertaken a feasibility study to assess 10 proposed options for harnessing the River Severn’s tidal range.

DECC announced a provisional shortlist of five options earlier this year and is expected to confirm the shortlist in early July.