Go with the flow to prevent flooding and protect wildlife

Monday 2nd September 2013

Lake View Potteric Carr cpt Kelvin PercivalLake View Potteric Carr cpt Kelvin Percival

Restoring the nation’s wetlands will improve flood defences and produce benefits for people and wildlife alike, say The Wildlife Trusts ahead of celebrating Our Wetland Wildlife Weekend (7-8 Sept).

The Wildlife Trusts around the UK are encouraging everyone to don their wellies and seek out their local wetland reserves to spot specialist species and discover more about the landscape-scale work being undertaken to reverse the destruction of wetland habitats.

“We’d like people to celebrate this wealth of wetland wildlife with us around the country, said Paul Wilkinson, Head of Living Landscape at The Wildlife Trusts.

“We want to spread the word about how vital wetlands are in safeguarding our own future as well as the future of our wetland species.

We’d like people to celebrate this wealth of wetland wildlife with us around the country

Counter-intuitive as it may seem, reconnecting watercourses with their natural floodplains and creating the conditions to allow flooding in some areas could safeguard towns and villages after a deluge, slowing the rush of water and allowing it to harmlessly seep away.  And as well as protecting people, these measures would also help wading birds such as curlew, snipe and ringed plover, along with mammals such as otters and water voles and many other species from moths to marsh harriers.

“It’s about restoration and recovery, said Paul Wilkinson.

“We want to restore and breathe new life into our wetlands so that they are providing natural solutions to flooding issues, rather than see flood-threatened communities always turning to concrete and hard structures as flood defences.   According to Environment Agency figures, one in six households – 5.2m properties – is at risk of flooding in England alone.

“In the UK over the decades, we’ve straightened and deepened rivers and dug ditches to drain wetlands, and this has meant that rainwater travels more quickly into towns and villages than it would if it was held in the wider countryside.

“In the past, the land around towns and cities and in the uplands absorbed water like a sponge. Today, rain often cannot soak into the ground because of land drainage, hard surfaces and compaction of soil.

“Many of the natural features in the landscape – wetlands and wet meadows – have been replaced or altered by housing and changes in land management practice, taking away natural storage spaces for water.  We should now be working with nature to reduce flooding.  We need to help people and wildlife to adapt to the increased risk.

This approach has already proved itself, with the storage capacity of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Potteric Carr wetland reserve saving many Doncaster homes from flooding in 2007.  A scheme by Staffordshire Wildlife Trust saved farmland from flood damage by making small-scale changes to land management and creating new wetlands.

Paul Wilkinson added: “Our wetland wildlife provides us with inspiration but wetlands can also play a vital role in helping us adapt to increased flooding. For both of these reasons, we need more wonderful wetlands.”

See some wonderful wetlands you can visit.

Tagged with: Living Landscapes, Flooding, Wetlands