Protecting our valuable wetlands

Swallows over wetlands. Picture by Neil Fletcher
Swallows over wetlands. Picture by Neil Fletcher
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Sunday 2 February is World Wetlands Day and Sussex Wildlife Trust remains committed to protecting our county’s valuable wetlands.

As Britain recovers from some of its worst flooding for decades, it’s timely to remember that wetlands are one of the most important habitats on the planet.

Fran Southgate. Picture by Miles Davies

Fran Southgate. Picture by Miles Davies

Fran Southgate Sussex Wildlife Trust’s Wetlands Officer says “After weeks of serious flooding many people are requesting wetlands and floodplains be drained without realising this often makes flooding worse. Urban run-off and drainage is now responsible for over 80% of our flooding issues in Sussex. Rather than causing the problem, precious wetlands help to absorb and store water and also reduce damage by slowing down floodwaters.”

As well as helping to protect us from flooding and supporting a vast array of wildlife, wetlands and floodplains are some of the most fertile agricultural areas in the world.

This year the theme of World Wetlands Day is ‘Wetlands and Agriculture – Partners for Growth.’

“Each year, seasonal floods replenish the nutrients and soil in wetlands and river floodplains, creating vast areas which we can reap for harvest,” explains Fran.

“Wetlands also directly provide fuel, fish and grazing marshes, and support agriculture indirectly by providing supplies of good quality water, nutrients for fertilising soils and insects which feed on pests.

“For years wetlands have been taken for granted, but their essential role in support of agriculture is becoming clearer and clearer.

“Wetlands are incredibly valuable,” she says, “They are the lungs, lifeblood and leisure to billions of people – storing climate regulating carbon, cleaning our drinking water and providing habitats for millions of species.”

As part of Sussex Wildlife Trust’s Wetland Landscapes Project, Fran Southgate provides free advice to landowners and farmers on how best to restore and reconnect our valuable wetland resources. For more information please ring Fran on 01273 492630.

Visit www.ramsar.org for details on World Wetlands Day.

Report contributed by the Sussex Wildlife Trust.