Wetland Cross Sectorial Values.
The UK Government have recently been criticised in the press for not funding wetland and wet woodland creation as part of the national flood defences policy (The Guardian and Daily Telegraph 22nd November 2016). This method of retaining water in wetlands has been demonstrated to hold back and retain large volumes of potentially damaging flow. The government and those agencies in control of flood defence seem to prefer engineered, site specific barrier methods. Wetlands being considered as a feature of nature reserves and as such are sites of recreation and not working landscape features.
The wetland for many hundred years has been a misinterpreted element in the landscape: unproductive land, havens for stinging insects and as such a national embarrassment. The land being fertile once drained and a source of both local and national wealth. For those communities that lived in and beside such areas, the marshes and wetlands were a sustainable ecosystem that allowed wildfowling and fishing, provided material for house building, rich water meadows and on the raised ground amongst the flatlands safe places for communities to flourish.
Today some of the last marsh and wetland sites in the UK are protected under the Ramsar Convention, an international agreement that gives some protection to those marshes and wetlands of large but unspecified size that act to offer shelter, food or rest areas to birds on their diurnal migrations. Some smaller areas are protected locally as nature reserves.
This is why the government are blinkered, the functionality of the wetland escapes their intellect. To understand a wetland or even half understand such a complex entity requires the mind of corporations such as can be found in such entities as a French dairy multinational who pay for marshes in the US to be recreated on a huge scale to offset their carbon emissions. In the UK they sponsor nature study in primary schools: laudable but not the cutting edge. The corporation has accepted the value of wetland carbon sequestration.
The use of such ecosystems as a multinational’s sink for carbon is laudable, I have no view on their products but this one very public ‘hot idea’, recognition of wetland value and use makes them worth praising above the UKs national stuttering approach to global warming. The government knows the values of such ecosystems but are afraid of their historic reputation of being unproductive.
The productivity of a marsh or wetland is as clear as it ever was and now can be added the needs of our own times. The relief of floods, the storage of carbon on remarkable scales and efficiencies, water retention for human need, reduction of farm sourced nutrients in water courses plus better air quality allow this environmental panacea to be sugared by its attractive link to nature conservation.
The UK Government needs to wake from its Brexit daze to the realisation that many answers to national and global issues are low cost, profitable and home grown.