We interview an expert on why it is so important to protect wetlands in the UK and further afield
Rob Shire is the Head of Conservation Action at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT), a charity that creates and restores wetlands, in order to safeguard wildlife and provide beautiful and inspiring landscapes for visitors.
Wetlands cover a tiny fraction of the earth’s surface but are home to more species of animals than almost anywhere else.
Why it is important for us to protect wetlands?
Wetlands are vital to life on Earth, including humans. They store rainwater and release it slowly which helps to manage drought, floods and pollution and to provide us with drinking water. But they’re easily damaged and often drained for building or agriculture.
What effect would there be on wildlife if wetlands continue to disappear at such a fast rate?
Catastrophic! Most species on Earth rely on wetlands at some point in their life cycle, such as for breeding and nursery habitats. Losing these habitats breaks the cycle – if you lose just one piece of the puzzle you can effectively wipe out the entire jigsaw. For example, the loss of wetlands along the Pacific Asia coast means millions of migratory waterbirds are running out of staging posts to complete their journey.
What is WWT doing to help?
Many things. In Russia we’re using our unique skills in conservation breeding to save the critically endangered spoon-billed sandpiper and using it as a flagship to save wetlands along its migration route. Closer to home, we’ve successfully reintroduced the Eurasian crane to southwest England which is exciting people about wildlife and creating an interest in protecting its watery habitat.
What can the general public do to help?
Create a pond in your garden if you have one, or get involved with a local conservation group. Live responsibly, for example, choosing peat free compost to protect peat bogs. If you become a member supporting WWT’s work, you’ll get free entry to our nine wetland centres across the UK too.