Wetlands are amazing. Where land meets water, there’s more wildlife than almost anywhere on the planet. Animals literally queue to get into wetlands. They’re great places to get close to wildlife. They’re places to relax, be inspired and feel at one with the world around you.
But below the surface, wetlands also do a lot of really clever stuff:
- They can supply our drinking water – and help to clean it before it goes into our rivers and reservoirs for drinking.
- They can use the filtered-out nutrients to produce a stunning array of wetland wildlife and beautiful inspiring landscapes.
- They can provide us with raw materials and food – more than half the world relies on wetland-grown rice for their staple diet.
- They can protect us from flooding by storing rainfall and buffering us from the sea.
Sadly, most of our wetlands have been lost and the remaining ones are very vulnerable to damage. They’re often seen as wastelands or non-productive land so they’re filled in or destroyed, without people realising the wider impact for plant, animal and human life.
But there’s hope. Unlike ancient woodland and rainforest that take centuries to regenerate, new technology means WWT can create new wetlands in a matter of months and years. It’s an area where your support can make a real splash.
10 wetland facts to knock your wellies off:
- Wetlands are good for you. Studies have shown that being near water helps ill people to recuperate faster, and being around nature reduces stress levels. Put water and nature together and you get a wetland!
- Peat wetlands alone store more carbon in the soil than rainforests do. They store a third of the world’s total despite only taking up 3 per cent of the world’s surface.
- Wetlands have amazing biodiversity. All life needs water and nearly all of it needs land too at some point. More than 100,000 species of animal rely on freshwater ecosystems alone (half of which are insects!).
- Wetlands help to provide most of the world’s drinking water by slowly feeding into our rivers, reservoirs and groundwater. The USA’s Environment Protection Agency says “Wetlands are the foundation of our nation’s water resources”.
- Wetlands help to clean our drinking water. They can remove up to 60 per cent of metals in the water, trap and retain up to 90 per cent of sediment from runoff and eliminate up to 90 per cent of nitrogen.
- Wetlands power industry. It takes 8,000 litres of water to make a pair of leather shoes – including feeding and supporting a cow and processing its hide into leather.
- Wetlands are financially valuable. They provide us with a huge amount of services for free, including cleaning our water and buffering us from floods. If we had to meet these costs ourselves, economists estimate the opportunity cost in the UK would be at least £6.7bn – which we’d have to meet through higher prices and taxes.
- Wetland plants are used extensively in medicine. More than 80 per cent of the world’s population relies on traditional medicines from plants and animals.
- Sadly, England has lost 90 per cent of its wetlands in the last 400 years. Currently 57 per cent of freshwater and wetland species for which we have sufficient data have declined, and 29 per cent have declined strongly.
- The world has lost about half its wetlands in the last 100 years. Most of the losses in the UK and globally are due to wetlands being drained for agriculture or to be built upon.