SERIOUS MONDAY: BRING BACK OUR WETLANDS

With all the floods hitting Britain in the past year or two, you’d think the last thing we need is more water …

But, as well as being beautiful, the country’s wetlands are also one of our most useful landscapes.
They help to combat climate change by storing carbon, provide a haven for wildlife and reduce flood risk to property.  They also provide a valuable link to our past – preserving artefacts and the remains of both animal and plantlife.

But scary figures which have just been released  show that England has lost 90 per cent of its wetlands over the past 1,000 years.

The Wetland Vision Partnership, an alliance of conservationists and government departments, is now calling for thousands of acres of new wetlands to be created and existing ones restored over the next 50 years.
Many wetlands have been lost since the industrial revolution and others have become smaller due to land drainage, river engineering and domestic water use.

The partnership has now produced a series of maps and information sheets suggesting sites for reedbed, grazing marsh, ponds and wet grassland.

Carrie Hume,  Wetland Vision Project Manager, said: “Great efforts are already being made by groups involved in wetland conservation, but our vision signals a step change in ambition.

“By showing what is possible and where, we can unlock the potential benefits for people and wildlife and inspire action to preserve and create wetlands across the landscape, from local ponds to wide expanses of fen.

“Wetlands contain some of England’s most significant heritage, including the remains of plants and animals, which help us understand past environments and unique artefacts made from materials like wood or textiles are preserved in these wetland sites.”

The partnership hopes that its maps will be used by everyone from community groups and farmers to local authorities and water companies.

Ann Skinner, from the Environment Agency says: “We have forgotten just how important wetlands are to us, as we are no longer directly dependent on them. Not only are they naturally productive, they also help to store and cleanse floodwaters, trap sediments and process nutrients, recharge our aquifers and lock up carbon.”

English Heritage archaeologists say wetlands are unique places and materials that are preserved in their waterlogged soils provide us with a much more complete picture of life in the past and Alistair Burn, from Natural England says: “Wetlands are some of the most important landscapes on earth and they are under threat.

“By increasing the natural capacity of the countryside to absorb and hold excess water, the risk of flooding could be dramatically decreased and wetland peat bogs could save around 400,000 tonnes of carbon a year.”

This urban wetland in Limerick is a lovely example of how people and nature can co-exist. Enjoy the birdsong !

Susan

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