Freshwater wetlands are considered to be one of the most important natural resources. They provide food, fuel, store and filter water, buffer against flooding and, store carbon. Wetlands are also important sites of recreation, allowing people to get in touch with nature. They also preserve important archaeological records such as organic materials and paleo-environmental deposits.
Over the past 1000 years, wetland habitats have been drained, developed on or polluted leading to a 90% loss of wetland area. Over the past 50 years, more than 100,000 wetland archaeological sites have also been damaged or lost. The dramatic loss of wetlands can be seen in the below maps.
As a consequence of habitat loss, wildlife and ecosystem services have declined or been lost. The majority of fragmented and diminished wetlands currently within the UK’s are also in poor condition.
In 2008 English Heritage, the Environment Agency, Natural England, the RSPB and the Wildlife Trust published “A 50-year vision for wetlands”. This document outlines the aims and objectives these organisations wish to achieve in order to preserve, enhance and restore England’s wetlands to maintain wildlife and historic records whilst benefiting society. Locations where this is considered possible are shown in map 3.
To achieve this vision, regional support is needed as local knowledge and thoughts are vital for the success of such large aims. The Fens were once England’s largest wetland, but over 97% of wetland habitats have been lost within the region. Therefore, a great deal of effort is needed to maintain surviving sites and restore others. This is already being put into practice through projects such as the Hanson-RSPB wetland project at Ouse Fen which will not only benefit the area but also contribute considerably to the Wetland Vision’s desire to double the area of reedbeds in England. Additional local involvement will be achieved through the Fens for the Future Partnership. Their strategic plan will ensure that “the visions for wetlands” is implemented within this region through its own targets.
The Great Ouse Wetland network is one of the UK’s most important wetlands at 3,000ha. The area is comprised of a network of wetland nature reserves including the well-established Welney and Ouse Washes nature reserves, and newer reserves such as Fen Drayton Lakes and Ouse Fen, as well as planned schemes at Sutton and Coveney. These sites are mostly owned by nature conservation organisations including the RSPB, WWT and WTBCN.
The Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership will further work on these aims as the scheme looks to encourage the local community to take part in conservation through projects such as “Giving Nature a Home at Fen Drayton”, “The Great Ouse Wetland Engagement project” and the “Barn Owl Recovery project” which will all be implemented with our partner organisations as part of the scheme’s delivery phase, which starts in 2014.