Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the world was facing a climate crisis, a nature crisis and an emerging wellbeing crisis. These crises are driven partly by the loss of habitats including wetlands.
of freshwater wetlands lost or destroyed in England in the past 500 years.
the benefits cost ratio of creating new wetlands recommended by the NCC.
hectares of wetlands WWT want to create as blue infrastructure.
These wetlands are incredibly important to our declining biodiversity, but they’re more than just homes for wildlife or beautiful places to enjoy. They also function as critical sources of ‘natural capital’, the stocks of natural assets ranging from water to all living things, that underpin our economy and wellbeing. We are depleting these natural resources at a rate faster than they can replenish.
Yet we have a precious opportunity to build back better. This is why WWT support a 'green recovery' that protects public health, rebuilds the economy and repairs our environment.
But we want to go one step further and propose a ‘blue recovery’ that renews local communities and builds our resilience for future challenges. 100,000ha is a big and ambitious figure - but it needs to be if we are to meet the challenges we face. It is also a credible one, recommended to the UK Government by its own advisers, the Natural Capital Committee (NCC), as part of a Nature Recovery Network: a national network of 500,000 hectares of additional wildlife habitat, that lies at the heart of their 25 Year Environment Plan.
A carbon storage network, creating coastal wetlands to absorb and store carbon.
We have only a decade left to limit global warming to a maximum safe limit of 1.5°C. The UK is legally committed to bringing all greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050 however, we are not on track to meet this. In 2021 we can help address climate change through the use of nature-based solutions. Wetlands – particularly peatlands, saltmarshes, mangroves and seagrass beds – play a key role in limiting the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.
Saltmarsh creation such as at WWT’s reserve on the Steart Peninsula in Somerset, stores more carbon, more quickly than other terrestrial ecosystems.
A flood protection network, creating wetland features to reduce the risk of flooding.
Climate change is significantly increasing the severity of extreme rainfall events and flood risk is now one of the UK’s top climate change risks. The Government has prioritised the creation of flood defences, however traditional ‘hard engineering’ can only go so far in addressing this new reality.
Natural flood management works with the landscape to hold water in the uplands and slow its flow downstream, with the added benefit of creating wildlife habitat. There is significant potential to increase the use of these wetlands so that they play an important role in the UK’s future flood defences.
WWT’s Government-backed project in West Somerset demonstrates how natural flood management interventions are a proven, effective and low-cost way to help reduce flood risk.
An urban wellbeing network, creating accessible wetlands to improve wellbeing.
Spending time in blue spaces - such as WWT’s - can be even more beneficial for your wellbeing than being in green spaces. The Government aims to connect more people with green and blue spaces in their everyday lives. However, access to such spaces is very unequal, with some ethnic groups and low-income families particularly disadvantaged.
Wetlands can provide blue spaces that are especially beneficial to wellbeing, helping us to adopt healthy and more sustainable behaviour (e.g. active travel), improving mood and reducing stress.
We’re working with local communities to create beautiful urban wetland sanctuaries for people and wildlife, like restoring the Salt Hill Stream in Slough.
A water treatment network, creating wetlands to restore biodiversity.
The world faces a biodiversity crisis. We're losing freshwater species and the wetlands they depend upon at an alarming rate. The UK is committed to improving water quality, however current targets are highly likely to be missed.
By removing nutrients, pesticides, sediment and pollutants, wetlands help restore water bodies. They’re versatile and can perform a range of functions from treating sewage, stormwater and agricultural waste to handling landfill leachate, mine drainage and road runoff.
WWT have been creating treatment wetlands for a wide range of purposes for 30 years. They include our Five Acre wetland at WWT Slimbridge, treating water affected by sources ranging from agriculture to industry. These wetlands remove up to 10% of total phosphorous, 60% of ammonia and 40% of nitrate.
WWT are experts in wetland creation. We work in the UK and overseas – on the ground and via global professional networks – to lead efforts. We are doing this through:
We will create as many hectares as we can ourselves as well as support others through capacity training and community engagement. 100,000 hectares of wetlands is a big figure – we cannot achieve this alone. We want to work in partnership with everyone across Government, business and wider civil society. Whether you wish to protect your livelihood, improve your neighbourhood or enhance your quality of life, we want to work with you.
To create 100,000ha wetlands, we must secure a policy framework. We want to work with the UK Government, devolved administrations and local authorities. We can help them develop and adopt the policies and plans that will provide the information, strategic approach and funding mechanisms people need to create and benefit from wetlands in their communities.
Our Policy & Advocacy team work to further WWT’s priorities in the UK and internationally in support of WWT’s conservation programmes.
For further detail on our four proposals please contact Tom Fewins, Head of Policy & Advocacy, WWT via email at email@example.com
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