Even before its completion, the role of WWT Steart Marshes reserve as a demonstration wetland was clear. Recognised as one of the best examples of design and engineering for wetland habitat creation. Ongoing research is providing invaluable evidence of the multiple benefits to be realised from wetland restoration.
When the opportunity arises to talk to those who are able to make changes in policy, this evidence is key to bring about change in behaviours, policies and management practices. Many decision makers remain unaware of wetlands and WWT. We need to be strategic in our approach, taking them on a journey on which they become firstly interested, then motivated and finally act on our behalf.
On the 7th February, the Environment Minister: Rebecca Pow came to Steart Marshes to learn about how the site is delivering services that benefit people and wildlife. Walking onto the new flood bank and looking over the huge expanse of saltmarsh provided the ideal setting to talk about the huge quantities of carbon research has shown Steart Marshes is locking away every year. Showcasing saltmarshes as vital weapons in the fight against climate change, storing carbon more efficiently than any other natural ecosystem.
From left to right: Alys Laver, Site Manager, Rebecca Pow, Environment Minister, Kevin Perberdy, Chief Operating Officer and Tim McGrath, Senior Project Manager. Photo: WWT Tom Fewins
We also talked about the value to improving commercially important fish stocks, such as sea bass found during research surveys. With the food theme continuing, we discussed the reserve’s agricultural management plan as part of a viable farm business, providing opportunities for the production of high-end food products such as saltmarsh beef and lamb. The experience of managing both farm business and biodiversity conservation are being used to model longer-term sustainable adaptation to climate change.
With our 25 year vision where threats to wetlands globally have been addressed by people who have been influenced by WWT. With the global climate summit being held in November, and the current Government talking about the use of natural solutions. This timely visit can only add weight to our goals, striving for a future where people are taking an ecosystem services-based approach to managing land and water. Regardless of political persuasion, visits from key MP’s enable us to advocate and realise an overarching vision of a world where healthy wetland nature thrives and enriches lives.