Today is World Wetland Day and it’s important that we take a moment and appreciate how vital these habitats and landscapes. Not only are the key in terms of biodiversity and ecology but they also function as an amazing climate change mitigation method.
Wetlands are an area where water is the primary factor controlling the environment and the associated plant and animal life. These areas occur everywhere and the UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Centre estimates that wetlands account for 6% of the Earth’s land surface with peatlands and fens accounting for the majority of the 6% . In the UK, peat-forming wetlands are the most common type and occur where the ground is too wet for vegetation to decompose forming a dark organic matter. Peatlands not only provide a valuable habitat for wildlife they are also carbon sinks, removing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it. Moreover, they can also act as flood defences and water purifiers  Wetlands are also some of the world’s most productive environments playing host to countless species of plants and animals . While their biodiversity is impressive what is equally impressive is their ability to mitigate climate change and are now considered a vital asset in our fight against a warming planet. Wetlands are the most effective carbon sink on our planet and increasing wetland cover is a great way of taking carbon out of the atmosphere, however for them to be effective they need to be left alone otherwise the carbon sinks will become carbon sources . Along with a changing climate comes more erratic weather patterns and therefore we can expect to see greater uncertainty in terms of rainfall and temperature. This could potentially lead to serious ramifications for wetlands which are highly sensitive to these changes. One of the biggest risks to come from greater uncertainty is habitat fragmentation with species being effectively stranded. With these areas relying so heavily on water and being in already precarious locations they will struggle to keep up with the changing environment . It is not just climate change that poses a threat to wetlands, human activity also causes severe degradation. Industrial-scale peat cutting for fuel and garden use have caused raised bogs to be destroyed. We have now lost a third of all our wetlands in just 45 years and today’s wetlands are now disappearing three times faster than forests . While London may be an extremely urban environment, we still have access to several wetland environments. The London Wetland Centre in Richmond is a great nature reserve with bird spotting hideouts and the wetlands in Walthamstow offer some great walks in between their 10 reservoirs.
Even in Lambeth, we can expect some new wetland environments. Lambeth Council have stated that they are collaborating with the new Thames Tideway project to construct a new wetland and reedbed habitat feature around Vauxhall bridge. There will be a great benefit to biodiversity especially for migrating and feeding fish, birds and invertebrates. This Sunday let’s all take a moment to truly appreciate this habitat and maybe even take a visit to Richmond or Walthamstow to learn more about how fantastically important these environments are.