World Wetlands Day, which occurs annually on 2 February, is taking the theme this year of Wetlands and Water Management, focusing on how wetlands take care of water quality.
The UK has many different types of wetlands, including floodplains, fens, lake systems, wet grasslands and bogs. Scotland, for example, has more than 10,500sq km of blanket bog, where hydrology is controlled largely by rainfall and evaporation. There are at least 392,000 ha of fen, reedbed, lowland raised bog and grazing marsh, although the true extent is uncertain, and there are 963,700 ha of floodplains (figures from the UK National Ecosystem Assessment).
In UK wetlands alone, more than 3500 species of invertebrates, 150 aquatic plants, 22 ducks and 39 wader species occur, while all seven of our native amphibians depend on wetlands for breeding.
Wetlands provide many ecosystem functions, including the regulation of water quality, for example by acting as a natural buffer zone and breaking down animal waste and contaminants in runoff.
CEH carries out research towards understanding the processes at work in different wetlands and helps to provide advice on how to manage them. We use our specialist skills in hydro-ecological modelling, field-data collection and monitoring in many wetland projects, from the well known and large-scale Great Fen restoration project to smaller studies, for example investigating eco-hydrological conditions at particular sites.
Globally, CEH scientists advise the International Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar) and the wetlands programme of IUCN - The World Conservation Union.
CEH scientists also work on coastal wetlands. Recently staff have published three new scientific papers on salt marshes and dune slacks:
- Carbon sequestration and biogeochemical cycling in a saltmarsh subject to coastal managed realignment (Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science)
- An eco-hydrological review of dune slacks on the west coast of England and Wales (Ecohydrology)
- Eco-hydrological requirements of dune slack vegetation and the implications of climate change (Science of the Total Environment)
Another research paper published in Nature on 30 January, which was led by the Open University and featured CEH, looked at globally important tropical wetlands and carbon loss.
Wetland sites are great for nature spotting. Given our recent rainy weather, if you are out and about at a UK wetlands site over the weekend, try to stay dry! Any photos you might take are very welcome to be added to our Wetlands in the UK Flickr group.
Each year the 2nd February is designated as World Wetlands Day, marking the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands in 1971, which occurred in the small Iranian city of Ramsar. Additionally 2013 has also been designated as the UN’s International Year of Water Cooperation, in recognition of the fact that water is critical for sustainable development and for human health and well-being.