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.
Environment Secretary George Eustice made a major speech today on the UK Government’s plans to protect and restore nature, tackle the climate and biodiversity crises and help deliver Net Zero by 2050.
A WWT site, Castle Espie Wetland Centre in Northern Ireland, has been selected as one of three brand new live locations across the UK to host Springwatch, BBC Two’s popular and long running wildlife programme.
New YouGov research, released by the Mental Health Foundation, has found 65 % of people find being near water improves their mental wellbeing and is their favourite part of nature
WWT experts have contributed to a major new report highlighting the importance of nature-based solutions to reaching Net Zero, hitting biodiversity targets, and adapting to climate change.
From the song of warblers to the pee-wit of lapwings, we are urging people to get out into local wetlands and listen to the unusual and often outlandish sounds of wetland birds this International
A new Natural England study showing the importance of nature in hitting net zero confirms the vital role wetlands have to play in reaching climate change targets.
Environment Agency Chief Executive Sir James Bevan warned government and business on Tuesday (16 March) that we need climate adaptation measures as well as net zero ambitions, describing them as “two sides of the same coin”.
WWT has joined forces with eight other conservation organisations to help protect the curlew, one of the most iconic and most threatened bird species in the UK.
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 part of the Prince of Wales’ Half Term Nature Challenge we are encouraging children in the UK to safely visit their local wetlands and try our WWT Waterside Wednesday Challenge. The activity will be broadcast on 17 February via the @Clarencehouse Instagram page. Families taking part will be encouraged to follow the hashtag #POWNatureChallenge and share their creative responses throughout the week in the form of drawings, photographs or even short films. Waterside Wednesday is one of six daily challenges aimed at encouraging children to get out doors and connect with nature locally throughout half term week. Each is set by a charity whose patron is the Prince of Wales. Any travel should be on foot only. The Challenge [HB::MODULE(1824)] Instructions Visit your local wetlands such as ponds, streams, lakes, and canals and spot as many birds as possible. Ducks are one of the easiest birds to find in wetlands, so why not create your own fantasy duck bringing together your favourite bits from the ducks you’ve seen. A guide on how to create your own fantasy duck can be downloaded from the WWT website. Or you can use your own materials, or send a photograph or video of your favourite bird. Don’t worry if you don’t spot any birds, or don’t have wetlands nearby, you can also use your imagination, or watch one of WWT’s live lake-side webcams at Slimbridge or Caerlaverock Wetland Centres on their website to see water birds in real time. Information Visit our challenge page for the fantasy duck activity sheet, webcams and a guide to UK ducks Dr Jonathan Reeves, Principle Research Officer (Health and Wellbeing), WWT, said: We are delighted to be setting the Prince of Wales’ Waterside Wednesday challenge this half term, helping to encourage children to get outdoors, use their creativity and have fun in their local wetlands. We, as a conservation charity, have a 75 year history of encouraging children to get outside and fall in love with wetland nature. And we’re still encouraging families to get out into wetlands, whether through visiting our wetland centres, helping people to explore their local wetlands, or joining our schools programme. We believe that developing children’s natural joy in exploring the outdoors into a passion for nature helps create the conservationists of the future and is fundamentally good for their health and wellbeing. The latest research shows that blue spaces involving water may be even better for people’s wellbeing than green spaces, so we’re pleased to be joining our patron the Prince of Wales in encouraging families to get their wetland wellbeing fix this half term Here is the video from Prince Charles introducing the challenge broadcast on the @Clarencehouse Instagram page on Saturday 13 February: [HB::MODULE(1825)]
A flock of Bewick’s swans which had begun their epic migration from Slimbridge Wetland Centre in Gloucestershire to the Arctic tundra have turned back to avoid the latest ‘Beast from the East’. Conservationists at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust noted that of 20 birds which had set off purposefully north last week, 12 had reappeared four days later. 11 had previously left from Slimbridge, with one new Bewick’s swan tagging along, which staff have now named Darcy. A newly spotted swan, named Darcy Every year, Bewick’s swans fly 4000km to the UK to escape the harsh Russian weather and voyage back there in early spring to breed. They are triggered to leave by the lengthening days but rarely have to abort their journey, a behaviour known as a ‘reverse migration’’. WWT’s Research Officer Kane Brides said: Arctic migrants like the Bewick’s swan are used to chilly weather and given the extremes of climate they experience, are very adaptable as a result. However freezing conditions reduce food availability and blizzards reduce visibility for migration. With the easterly wind direction against them for their onwards migration to Russia, they are very sensible to sit this out! The Bewick’s swans at Slimbridge are lucky they have a comfortable B&B to shelter at until the cold weather period passes. The reserve at Slimbridge is perfectly maintained so that the habitat is just right for the visiting swans. They are fed three times a day by the reserve warden staff who also ensure that they are kept safe over the winter. The Slimbridge Bewick’s swans are the subject of one of the most intensive wildlife studies in the world. WWT’s expert researchers can identify each individual swan by the unique pattern of yellow and black on its beak. Started by WWT’s founder Sir Peter Scott, the study has been running continuously for over 50 years and has recorded the life histories of nearly 10,000 swans during that time. Since the early sixties, WWT has expanded its swan research over the decades and linked up with researchers throughout the migratory swans’ range in northern Europe and Russia. Together they have managed to secure international protection for a chain of wetlands along the way that are vital for the swans to feed and rest. The number of Northwest European Bewick’s swans has dropped by a third in recent years and there are less than 21,000 left. Bewick’s swans are endangered in Europe and protected from hunting by law in every country they fly through. Despite this, a third of live birds caught and x-rayed by researchers are found to be carrying shotgun pellets. WWT is working with scientists, hunters, indigenous groups and young people to help protect the birds from illegal hunting across their migratory path. More information on this project, Swan Champions, can be found at https://www.wwt.org.uk/our-work/projects/swan-champions/.
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