The UK Government has today announced major new proposals to help meet its ambitions to halt the loss of nature and restore species by 2030. The announcements include proposed new targets to improve water quality and increase species abundance, and the publication of a new Nature Recovery Green Paper which proposes to overhaul how areas including some of our best wetlands are protected for nature. These proposals follow the passing of the landmark Environment Act in November 2021 and are designed to drive action by successive governments to protect and enhance our natural world. WWT broadly welcomes the proposals. Tom Fewins, Head of Policy & Advocacy, comments: “Wetlands are one of the world’s most biodiverse habitats, providing homes and places to rest for many endangered species. However, they are also under pressure and in the UK we have lost 90% of our wetlands. Small wonder we face a biodiversity crisis and are one of the most nature-depleted nations on Earth. “We welcome the UK Government’s ambition to halt and reverse the loss of our wildlife, however this must be matched by action. We rely upon many of the goods and services that wetlands provide, from drinking water to flood protection, and if we want to enjoy these in the future we need healthy, functioning wetlands. “This means affording our most precious wetland sites - many of which are Ramsar wetland sites of international importance - the very best level of protection, with a comprehensive set of legally-based designations. It means ensuring our wetlands are managed wisely so that their resources – be it water or wildlife - are used sustainably. And perhaps most crucially, it means restoring some of what we have lost. If the Government really wants to reverse the catastrophic loss of species there is no better way than to embrace WWT’s proposals for a ‘Blue Recovery’ and support our efforts to create and restore 100,000 hectares of wetlands.” In the coming months, WWT will be responding to the Government’s proposals, urging it to go further and faster in supporting efforts to create and restore wetlands. To help us campaign for 100,000 hectares of wetlands in the UK, you can sign our Wetlands Can! pledge. With your support, we will campaign for change and urge the UK government to prioritise and invest in more wetlands.
World Wetlands Day 2022 We need to love, cherish and restore our amazing, natural wetlands.This February 2 sees the 25th World Wetlands Day. The day provides a crucial reminder that our wetlands are sadly disappearing three times faster than our rainforests, and our planet’s biodiversity is in steady decline. Please join us in raising awareness of this ecological plight, and help us stop its progression. From the mangroves of Bangladesh, to the floodplains of Bolivia and everywhere in between, the wetlands provide an essential habitat for 1,000s of wildlife species. But frightenedly, this natural environment has continued to decline over the centuries. In fact, in the years between 1970 – 2015 alone, we have lost 35% of our global wetlands. This not only upsets a valuable ecosystem, but is instrumental in raising carbon and methane emissions, making a significant contribution towards global warming. It means that water becomes scarcer, food is harder to grow, and exposure to flooding and extreme weather events increase. In a huge city such as London, an urban wetland is especially important. Its role in creating a healthier environment shouldn’t be taken for granted. It eases the threat of flooding, helps to slow down climate change, and provides a habitat for wildlife to thrive and grow.At The London Wetland Centre, you can even encounter some of the more vulnerable and endangered wildlife, such as Hawaiian geese, White-headed ducks, and Asian small-clawed otters.If you would like to support this important cause and learn more about biodiverse habitats and the animal species that live here, the London Wetland Centre would be a truly amazing place to visit. With so much of our planet’s natural resources being depleted, and so many of our animal species being so close to extinction, we are running out of time. Our organisation relies on people becoming involved and getting behind our valuable work. Come and explore the natural wetland, meet the wildlife, and learn about our mission to preserve the urban wetlands. We can’t do any of it without your support.
A new UK Government scheme to pay farmers to create and restore wetlands on their land has been welcomed by WWT as a “once in a generation” opportunity to help turn the tide on biodiversity loss and poor water quality.
Findings demonstrate restored coastal saltmarsh, created through re-connecting the land to the sea, stores more carbon, faster, than forests
WWT has welcomed the Nature Positive 2030 report produced by the five UK statutory nature agencies stressing that ambitions for nature recovery should be put on the same footing as those for climate change.
We're joining 20 other nature organisations calling for urgent measures to help lift England’s rivers, lakes and streams from the bottom of the water quality league table, and warn that drastic action is needed to restore wildlife habitat. Every freshwater body in England currently fails chemical standards and only 16% are classed in good ecological health compared to 53% on average in the EU. A new report by Wildlife and Countryside Link’s Blueprint for Water group warns that climate change is worsening conditions for our already beleaguered waters: increased water-use during droughts and damage caused by flooding, both becoming more frequent due to climate change, are compounding the existing problems of overuse and chemical, sewage and plastic pollution for our waters. WWT’s Head of Policy and Advocacy Tom Fewins backed the action and said the Government should adopt wetlands as a “powerful weapon” in the fight to restore our missing wildlife. He added this should include backing WWT’s Wetlands Can! campaign calling for the creation of 100,000 hectares of healthy wetlands across the country. Tom said: “The world faces a biodiversity crisis: in the UK alone, over half of freshwater and wetland species are declining with 13% at risk of extinction. Poor water quality is helping to fuel this and the UK is very likely to miss its targets to address it. “We must urgently turn this situation around – and that should include looking to the ‘nature based solutions’ that wetlands provide. “This includes their amazing ability to improve water quality by filtering out a wide range of pollutants, something WWT has found out over the many years we have been creating ‘treatment’ wetlands specifically for this purpose. With a biodiversity crisis upon us the Government must now adopt wetlands as a powerful weapon in the fight to restore our missing wildlife. This means putting together the partnerships, information, plans and funding in place to create and restore 100,000ha wetlands as part of a Blue Recovery.” The report – called Blueprint Vision: a freshwater recovery plan for England, poses three main challenges for the Government: RESTORE water and wildlife through large-scale, strategic habitat restoration, protecting and enhancing wildlife hotspots. CLEAN-UP pollution with an effective and fully resourced monitoring and enforcement regime, driven by ambitious targets. RE-THINK our relationship with water to build a sustainable system, delivering climate resilience, water security, and health and well-being benefits for our communities. Ali Morse, Water Policy Manager at The Wildlife Trusts, and Chair of Blueprint for Water, said: “Nature and society are already paying the price for the over-use and pollution of our waters and wetlands - wildlife is struggling to survive, our rivers are not safe to swim and play in, and as customers we pay millions to clean up water so that it’s safe to drink. And that price is going to get even steeper as we feel the effects of climate change. “We’re facing a hazardous future of water shortages, flood damage and the loss of iconic species like the water vole and Atlantic salmon in England. We should all be worried that none of our rivers, lakes or streams are in good health and we have among the worst water quality in Europe. It’s time for a new vision for English waters, with adequate investment, robust pollution prevention and sustainable water use.”
WWT is today launching a major new public campaign Wetlands Can! urging people to get behind our call for the creation of 100,000 hectares of healthy wetlands in the UK to help combat the climate, nature and wellbeing crisis.
WWT has welcomed the Independent Assessment of UK Climate Risk report released by the Climate Change Committee which states clearly that we cannot deliver net zero without tackling the nature crisis. Healthy wetlands were mentioned at the report’s launch alongside peat and woodlands as having a vital role in fighting climate change. The Climate Change Committee’s assessment is independent advice which the government will use to inform its decision making. These reports are published every five years and set out not only the risks but also the opportunities facing the UK from climate change. In a blog about the report the Green Alliance said this was “the clearest and most alarming picture yet of what the changing climate could mean for the future of the UK” and that it should send “shockwaves” through the government. In the report, the committee identifies eight priority risk areas which need immediate attention - at the latest in the next two years. These are: Risks to the viability and diversity of terrestrial and freshwater habitats and species from multiple hazards Risks to soil health from increased flooding and drought Risks to natural carbon stores and sequestration from multiple hazards, leading to increased emissions Risks to crops, livestock and commercial trees from multiple climate hazards Risks to supply of food, goods and vital services due to climate-related collapse of supply chains and distribution networks Risks to people and the economy from climate-related failure of the power system Risks to human health, wellbeing and productivity from increased exposure to heat in homes and other buildings Multiple risks to the UK from climate change impacts overseas At the launch of the report, the chair of the committee Baroness Brown said: “The severity of the risks we face must not be underestimated. These risks will not disappear as the world moves to Net Zero; many of them are already locked in.” In particular, she drew attention to the urgent need for adaptation to tackle the crisis – saying that at the moment it was the “Cinderella of climate change”. She specifically mentioned wetlands in her call for adaptation: “We cannot rely on nature to sequester carbon unless we ensure that our peat and our trees and our wetlands are healthy, not only today but in the climate conditions we will all be experiencing in the future,” she said. WWT’s senior policy and advocacy officer Hannah Freeman said the committee had done a good job in highlighting not only the scale of the risks we face, but also the opportunities that are there to reduce that risk. “One of these is investing in nature based solutions and at WWT we are calling for investing in wetland saltmarsh restoration and creation which will not only store carbon but also provide other benefits including buffering storm surges and reducing flooding,” she said “The report highlighted that one of the highest risks is the risk to nature and natural carbon stores - to tackle that we need to invest in nature to make it healthy and resilient, which will, in turn reduce the impact on human health and wellbeing. “The report highlights that in order to meet net zero, nature in the UK needs to absorb 8 megatonnes of carbon and we need to invest in nature to achieve this.” WWT are calling for the creation and restoration of 100,000ha of wetlands as part of our Blue Recovery to overcome the climate, nature and wellbeing crises we are experiencing. We need Government to adopt policies and funding mechanisms that support wetland creation and restoration such as saltmarsh for carbon sequestration, natural flood management, health and well-being and water quality.
A new Radio 4 drama that uses the story of a fictional nature reserve to highlight the vital role wetlands can play in fighting the climate crisis starts next week. The Song of the Reed stars Mark Rylance and Sophie Okonedo and will play out in four different episodes – one for each season of the year. The first, on Monday 21 June, introduces us to Fleggwick reserve and the characters that the four-part series revolves around. According to the BBC website, Fleggwick, like the ecosystem it protects, is under threat. The site was not financially sustainable when its founder passed away so his daughter Liv needs to find a way for it to survive. Recorded on location at RSPB’s Strumpshaw Fen, the story is “informed by the real work and science of conservation taking place in the face of rapid environmental change in the wetlands of Norfolk, and everywhere”. In a Guardian article about the production, Sir Mark Rylance said he was calling on the arts to help solve the climate crisis by telling stories that persuade people to “fall in love with nature again” and prompt government to back green policies. Mark said he became interested in wetlands during lockdown, having discovered from WWT that “over the last 500 years we’ve lost or built on 90% of them” and they are a “good carbon sink” as well as a potential biodiversity network to link up wildlife migrating north due to rising temperatures. This message sits right at the heart of WWT’s Blue Recovery plan – and Mark told the Guardian that he hoped the series would draw attention to our campaign. He also said that he personally tried to do as much voluntary eco-work as possible and that he would be donating his fee from the BBC to WWT. WWT’s Head of Policy and Advocacy Tom Fewins said he was looking forward to the series. “It’s great that Radio 4 is using drama in this way to draw people’s attention to the importance of nature in fighting the climate crisis and that in this case they are using wetlands as a back drop to do so. “Wetlands are amazing – from great sweeping salt marshes to humble urban rain gardens they provide a wide range of ‘nature-based solutions’ to not just the climate and nature crisis, but the wellbeing crisis too. This is why WWT is putting the restoration and creation of more than 100,000 hectares of wetlands at the heart of its Blue Recovery plan to build back better after Covid-19. “I am looking forward to listening to Song of the Reed next week and to following the drama when the other episodes are released later in the year”. The first episode of Song of the Reed will be broadcast on Monday 21 June at 2pm and will be available to download shortly after. The remaining three episodes will air later in the year.
Government, politicians, environmental organisations and businesses today attended the online launch of WWT’s Blue Recovery.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak today outlined the Government’s budget for the next year.
As biodiversity continues to disappear from our rivers, lakes and other wetlands, WWT welcomes the findings of the Dasgupta Review, the much anticipated assessment into the economics of preserving nature. Until recently, the link between environmental loss and economic decline had yet to take centre stage. However the Review, the conclusions of which are launched today on World Wetlands Day, led by Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta, highlights the intrinsic importance of a sustainable and healthy economy built on the protection of our most important asset - nature The Review makes clear that human wealth depends on nature’s health. It states that urgent and transformative action taken now would be significantly less costly than delay, and calls for change on three broad fronts: Humanity must ensure its demands on nature do not exceed its sustainable supply and must increase the global supply of natural assets relative to their current level. For example, expanding and improving management of protected areas; increasing investment in Nature-based Solutions; and deploying policies that discourage damaging forms of consumption and production.We should adopt different metrics for measuring economic success and move towards an inclusive measure of wealth that accounts for the benefits from investing in natural assets and helps to make clear the trade-offs between investments in different assets. Introducing natural capital into national accounting systems is a critical step.We must transform our institutions and systems – particularly finance and education – to enable these changes and sustain them for future generations. For example, by increasing public and private financial flows that enhance our natural assets and decrease those that degrade them; and by empowering citizens to make informed choices and demand change, including by firmly establishing the natural world in education policy.As the world fights a pandemic amid nature, climate and well-being crises, WWT is calling for fundamental reform of our economic models, and for large-scale healthy wetland restoration to be at the heart of realising Dasgupta's aims to preserve natural capital and boost prosperity. WWT agrees with the review that the rules that govern our economy, markets and finance must be radically changed to place nature at the heart of economic decision making. Without this, we will likely fail to solve the degradation of nature crisis which is currently having a disproportionate impact on freshwater species around the globe. Freshwater habitats, which host more species per square kilometre than land or oceans – are losing this extraordinary biodiversity two or three times faster than other habitats. A staggering 90% of the world’s wetlands have suffered from degradation contributing to an 84% collapse in freshwater biodiversity. WWT believes that investing in a blue recovery, by providing essential blue infrastructure that restores, protects and makes best use of natural capital, can help significantly reverse this decline and meets Dasgupta’s recommendation to prioritise investment in nature based solutions to benefit global economies and wider society.WWT are calling for creation of landscape-scale networks of nature-rich wetlands in the UK to build this vital blue infrastructure and provide crucial environmental benefits such as clean water, flood alleviation, carbon storage and boosting people’s health and wellbeing. To help provide a road map towards a blue recovery, in September last year, an international team of scientists from WWT, WWF, University of Cardiff and other eminent organisations produced an emergency freshwater recovery plan to set out how to reverse the global decline in freshwater biodiversity and help to create more healthy wetlands. The UK economy stands to lose around £15.5bn annually if it does not embrace restorative systems, such as networks of nature-rich wetlands, that sustain our underlying natural wealth and assets which can in turn lead to job creation, new markets and health protection. Policy and Advocacy Manager at WWT Richard Hearn said: “We are undermining the natural capital people depend upon and we welcome Daspugta’s efforts to bring economists, HM Treasury and other financial decision-makers further into this debate. “Over a quarter of our freshwater species are facing extinction and time is running out. WWT believes that delivering a blue recovery is a vital part of reversing this and meeting Dasgupta’s ambitions. “The most expensive thing we can do is return to business as usual. When we protect nature, nature protects us. Dasgupta shows us a way we can have a sustainable and healthy economy that doesn’t treat nature as an endless resource. “Economists need to take note, wetlands are biological super-systems. By improving freshwater biodiversity you’re saving a disproportionately high number of ecosystem services and species, which in turn benefit huge numbers of people and help bring prosperity to society as a whole.” The Dasgupta Review identifies a range of actions that can simultaneously enhance biodiversity and deliver economic prosperity. Read more here.
In the aftermath of Storm Christoph, The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) is calling for more nature rich wetlands in the UK to help stop repeats of this type of catastrophic flooding. Conservationists are making a fresh push for a re-think on flood prevention after thousands of residents in the North West of England and Wales were evacuated from their homes and a warehouse storing the Oxford vaccine was compromised when the extreme weather event swept in from the Atlantic last week. Local communities are still dealing with the aftermath this week. There are currently 32 flood warnings and 54 flood alerts in place in the UK. Wetlands – areas of land that are either covered with or are saturated with water, either permanently or seasonally - help shield communities by naturally preventing and mitigating the effects of flooding. WWT is pressing for more of these habitats as part of a natural solution to flooding, to be effectively incorporated into the UK government’s flood alleviation policies ahead of World Wetlands Day on 2 February 2021. WWT’s Senior Project Manager for Wetland Landscapes, Tim McGrath, said: We can fight water with wetlands. It might seem counterintuitive, but adding water in the right places can assist with flood prevention. Nature rich wetland habitats such as wet grassland, peatlands, bogs, fens and saltmarsh soak up excess water, then release it slowly back into river systems, offering a sustainable long-term solution to the rising risk of flooding and unpredictable weather patterns caused by climate change. The UK has lost 90% of its wetlands over the past 400 years[i]. In cities, rivers and streams have been built over and wetlands, which once would have absorbed and stored surplus water-flows, have been drained and channelled. In rural areas, historic wetlands have been drained for farming and development. The impact of these losses are becoming more severe as climate change increases the volatility of our weather. Physical flood barriers like concrete walls and dredging can protect homes and businesses from flooding, but the cost of building and maintaining vast flood defence schemes for every village, town and property that floods is prohibitive. Other options are urgently needed if local homes and communities are to be protected more effectively in future. Natural Flood Management (NFM), a term to describe using ponds, flood plains and wet woodlands to manage and hold water in the land for longer, offers a more natural, sustainable and cost-effective way of mitigating the risk which can bring multiple benefits for people and wildlife. WWT is expert in creating, restoring and managing wetlands to help naturally alleviate flooding both in urban and rural settings and has been doing so for many years. It has been working with local authorities and other conservation charities on Natural Flood Management projects in the Cotswolds, Stroud and Gloucester. In Somerset, where staff have been planting hedgerows and creating wetlands to protect residents, the Trust has recently received £1.58m from the Government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund to further protect and enhance the coast there. WWT’s Carina Gaertner, who oversees the project in Somerset, said: Overly managed landscapes have destroyed one of nature’s great flood defences – wetlands. For the past two hundred years we have been guilty of mismanaging wetlands, clearing out watercourses, straightening and sanitising them; making water flow away as quickly as possible – but causing flooding downstream. We need to rewind the clock and re-wild our rivers, streams and other wetlands. We need to change our mind-sets to a less tidy approach so water is held in the landscape for as long as possible to allow it to slowly pass through the catchment over a long period rather than rushing off the land in a flash flood. In urban areas, rainwater has long been treated as waste to be channelled out of cities and towns via drains that can overflow following heavy periods of rain and spill into the sewage system. WWT promotes SuDS - sustainable drainage systems. They manage the rain at the point it hits the ground or roof, slow the flow of water and cleanse it as it passes. The water is then retained in a system of ponds, swales, rain gardens and filter strips which can be created anywhere. As they incorporate water and plants, they can help wildlife in the same ways as natural wetlands. The costs of Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis that swept the UK in early 2020 are still being calculated. Across the country, hundreds of businesses were badly damaged. Early estimates suggest the cost to the insurance industry of both storms could hit £425 million. By the 2050s the annual average losses from coastal and river flooding in England and Wales could rise to between £1.6 and £6.8 billion[ii]. WWT is working closely with organisations like the Environment Agency to build up a body of evidence to help persuade Governments, businesses, landowners and property owners to invest in wetlands – be they woody dams, urban rain gardens or saltmarshes – as a nature-based solution to reducing flooding. For more information on how nature-rich wetlands reduce flooding visit wwt.org.uk/flooding. Case Study Lauren Turner, 27, from Warrington, Cheshire, had to be evacuated by boat with her three young children aged 6, 2 and 2 months following Storm Christoph. I first started to worry on Wednesday evening as the water level was creeping up the garden. When I woke up the next morning at 6am, the electrics had gone. It was only when I got to the top of my stairs that I noticed the entire ground floor of our house covered in murky water. It was frightening. My poor six-year-old was inconsolable because he didn’t understand what was happening and thought that the water would keep rising and that we wouldn’t be able to escape. We stayed upstairs until the rescue boats came for us in the afternoon. The fire services were brilliant and it was the first time I felt like I could relax and that my children and I were safe. I am currently staying with the father of my children. We co-parent and thankfully have a good relationship. I don’t know when we’ll be able to move back in. We were told that the floodwater had mixed with sewage so not only do the floors need to be replaced, the house will have to be deep-cleaned too. Everything on the ground floor is destroyed and needs replacing including my sofa, a bookcase, my rug and the kids’ toys which were downstairs. I have no idea what the cost will be, but I certainly can’t afford to do this regularly. Apparently, this area is prone to flooding at this time of year but my neighbours have said they’ve never seen it this bad. As a community, we are hoping something will be done so we don’t have to experience this again. We are all very worried. I’ve never experienced flooding before and it has completely changed how I feel about my home. I used to feel safe there – I loved it – but now I’m afraid that this is something we’ll have to go through as a family, every year. [i] https://nbn.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/State-of-Nature-2019-UK-full-report.pdf [ii] https://www.wwf.org.uk/sites/default/files/2020-02/GlobalFutures_SummaryReport.pdf
As the vote approached, we launched a callout in partnership with BirdLife Europe to ‘share a swan’ as a symbol of hope. See a small selection of some of the artworks our supportive WWT community produced!
WWT's ambitious new project to safeguard the Somerset coast from the effects of climate change has received a £1.58m donation as part of the Government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund. It is one of the first environmental projects awarded a grant from the government’s £80 million allocated pot. The scheme, which will focus on creating and restoring 130ha of habitats for wildlife, aims to increase the robustness of the county’s coastline by delivering landscape-scale interventions. Nature-based solutions, through natural flood management and improved land management, will also boost flood resilience, improve soil and water quality and help wetlands to absorb carbon. The development also aims to embed the knowledge and skills within local communities so that they can continue this work well into the future. WWT’s Senior Project Manager for Wetland Landscapes, Tim McGrath said: “The world is facing a climate crisis, a nature crisis and an emerging wellbeing crisis. To combat this, WWT is launching its own Blue Recovery, which proposes the creation and restoration of wetlands as a natural solution to these problems. “Healthy wetlands have multiple benefits for people and wildlife; they store more carbon than forests, they store and slow the flow of water, preventing flooding, they support biodiversity and provide people with an abundance of nature to enjoy, proven to have positive impacts on health. “We are so pleased to be the recipients of such a generous fund to help this work get underway in Somerset, where WWT has had a longstanding presence, centred around the spectacular WWT Steart Marshes.” The project will be delivered in partnership with Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group South West (FWAG), Bridgwater & Taunton College (BTC) and Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). Defra announced grants between £62,000 and £3.8 million today, to help create and retain thousands of green jobs. The projects, spread across England, will see trees planted - 800,000 in total - and protected landscapes and damaged habitats such as moorlands, wetlands and forests restored, alongside wider conservation work. The projects will also support environmental education and connecting people with green spaces. The Green Recovery Challenge Fund is a key part of Prime Minister’s 10 Point Plan to kick-start nature recovery and tackle climate change. The fund is being delivered by the National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Natural England and the Environment Agency. 68 projects have been awarded grants between £62k and £3.8 million to kick-start a pipeline of nature-based projects while creating and retaining jobs First funding round sees almost £40 million allocated, second round of funding to open in early 2021 Environment Minister, Rebecca Pow, said: “These projects will drive forward work across England to restore and transform our landscapes, boost nature and create green jobs, and will be a vital part of helping us to build back greener from coronavirus. “I look forward to working with environmental organisations as these projects help address the twin challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change, while creating and retaining jobs as part of the green recovery.” Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive, National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “Supporting our natural environment is one of the most valuable things we can do right now. All these projects are of huge benefit to our beautiful countryside and wildlife, but will also support jobs, health and wellbeing, which are vitally important as we begin to emerge from the coronavirus crisis.” The government’s forthcoming Environment Bill puts the environment at the centre of policy making to ensure that we have a cleaner, greener and more resilient country for the next generation. The fund is supporting a range of nature conservation and recovery, as well as nature-based solutions projects, which will contribute towards government’s wider 25 Year Environment Plan commitments.