Climate change will pose significant risks to our existing wetlands and the species that rely on them as summer rainfall decreases and water becomes more scarce.
However, at the right scale, wetlands can be more robust to these changes as well as help us adapt to climate change by providing valuable water storage for increased winter rainfall.
New, restored and preserved wetlands can help society to adapt to the effects of climate change. But planning needs to be on the right scale if wetlands and their wildlife are to be made more resilient to these changes. For example, if the wetland is connected to other wetlands or is big enough, the more likely that it will be resilient to climate change.
Unfortunately, wetlands are in decline with remaining sites small, fragmented and under pressure.
In the right locations, wetlands can help to protect people and property from the effects of increased rainfall and sea level rise by storing flood waters and slowing the rate at which flood water flows. They can also help to recharge aquifers and protect water quality by storing sediment and processing nutrients.
What’s happening and why
The Wetland Vision is a partnership project which will secure a better future for wetlands in England over the next 50 years.
The project developed a series of maps showing where different types of wetlands could be created, restored and maintained over the long term. The partners also set out how they planned to achieve this vision.
The aim is to help ensure a better future for these threatened areas and promote a role for wetlands in helping us adapt to the impacts of climate change. In particular, the Wetland Vision provides strategic direction for the protection of existing wetlands and the creation of new ones.
‘Wetlands are vital havens for wildlife and fantastic places for people to enjoy, but it seems people are less aware of the important public services they provide,’ says Ann Skinner, National Conservation advisor, Environment Agency.
‘Restoring the wetland landscape will increase the countryside’s capacity to absorb and store excess water, reducing the risk of flooding for relatively little cost. The restoration of our peat bogs could lock up to 400,000 tonnes of carbon a year. We must acknowledge the contribution wetlands make, socially, economically and environmentally by establishing a place for them in our modern countryside.’
The Countryside Council for Wales has undertaken a similar strategic approach to managing wetlands in Wales.
What happens next
The Environment Agency will be running a science project to develop a Wetland Vision tool kit, to help wetland managers assess climate risks and identify what they need to do to help manage their wetlands as the climate changes.
The Wildlife Trusts