February 2nd is annual World Wetlands Day. It’s a day to celebrate everything that happens when you mix water and wildlife.
Wetlands are amazing places
Wet nature is lush nature. Parts of the UK receive more rain annually than the Amazon rainforest. But instead of storing it in tropical forests, we store it in wetlands, moors, bogs and lakes. And they are just as amazing places.
The UK’s wetlands are home to the fastest animal on earth, the peregrine falcon. We have flowers shaped like tiny people, four-foot high birds with red and black heads, and three-eyed prehistoric ‘prawns’.
And if you want drama, there are metre-long carnivorous mammals and even a flower that melts insects from the legs up – eek!
Just like tropical rainforests, Britain’s wetlands are part of our life-support system. In fact they can store three times more carbon per square metre than their rainforest equivalents.
Vitally, they store rainwater and release it slowly. This gives us water for drinking and agriculture. It also reduces the risk of flooding when there is too much rain, or drought when there isn’t enough rain.
Unfortunately, people don’t see the beauty in wetlands and think of them as convenient places to either take our waste, or to be drained for development. Sadly, 90% of wetlands in England and Wales have been lost. The remainder are vulnerable to pollution and disturbance, so often aren’t in a great state.
That’s why WWT has created 10 wetland reserves across the UK, totalling 7,500 acres. These beautiful landscapes are home to hundreds of thousands of animals. And rather than fencing them off, we design our reserves so that you can come right in and get the best seat closest to the action. Some of our hides even have sofas and heating!
We are part of community wetland projects around the country. In Slough we’re helping local people to restore a stream in the town centre. In Barnet, we’ve helped 10 schools to build features like bog gardens that mimic wetlands and help to reduce local flooding.
Globally, WWT has worked on projects in 70 countries over 70 years. We’ve saved individual bird species from extinction, like the Hawaiian goose and the Madagascar pochard – both of which had less than 30 individuals left in existence when we stepped in.
We’ve helped communities in countries as diverse as Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Venezuela to restore and manage wetlands sustainably for wildlife and for themselves.
Hope for the future
Half of the world’s wetlands have been lost and they now only cover a tiny 3% of the planet. But they are still home to around 10% of species, and they are vital in some way to all life, including human life.
But unlike rainforests or ancient woodland that take hundreds of years to restore, new technology means wetlands can be repaired or created much more quickly with great gains for wildlife and people.
That’s why WWT is so passionate about wetlands, and why your support makes a really big splash.