What is the issue?
Wetlands are areas covered by permanent or temporary shallow water, including fens, peatlands, swamps, bogs, riparian river and lake marshes and intertidal habitats. They act as links between watercourses and the land, providing important refuges for juvenile fish and many invertebrate species
In the past, people have regarded wetlands as wastelands and as a result many have been drained, ploughed and destroyed. Wetlands are, however, one of the world's most productive environments, comparable to coral reefs and tropical rainforests.
As well as being important for fisheries and biodiversity, wetlands can provide a wide range of ecosystem services and environmental benefits including; flood protection, regulation of water regimes, erosion control, carbon sequestration and nutrient, toxicant and sediment removal.
What S&TCUK has achieved so far
The successes so far are limited. The Lawton Review recognised the importance of wetlands and recommended the Government establish a network of ecological restoration zones where networks of clean water and wetlands could be created to provide high quality wildlife corridors to help provide resilience against climate change.
The transitional zone between fresh and marine water is now classified under the Water Framework Directive. This means for the first time we are required to monitor fish populations in intertidal areas.
What still needs to be done?
The S&TCUK feels that the preservation and restoration of our freshwater and intertidal wetlands is vital to the recovery and survival of our native fisheries. We are lobbying the Government, EA and Natural England for:
- The Government to implement the recommendations of the Lawton Review.
- Further integration of soft engineering options, such as wetlands, into environmental policy to deliver catchment based objectives
- Multi-discipline objectives for wetland creation, where new wetlands are designed to achieve multi-functional benefits, including flood prevention and biodiversity objectives which also provide suitable habitat for fish.
- Further protection for intertidal habitat by making them candidates for Marine Protected Areas (MPA). The MPA network should be working to help safeguard different stages of commercial/recreational fish’s life history. Designating intertidal habitat will help achieve maximum recruitment through nursery protection, which will help boost fisheries in the future.
- S&TCUK Briefing Paper: The Importance of Freshwater Wetland Habitats
- World Wetlands Day. (2007). Fish for Tomorrow
- Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. (2005). Ecosystem and human well-being: Wetlands and Water
- WWF. (2005). Living Water; Conserving the source of life- The Economic Value of the Worlds Wetlands
- English Nature. (1996). Freshwater Wetlands in England
- S&TCUK Scientific Briefing Paper: The Value of Intertidal Habitat
- Defra/EA. (2008). Managed Realignment Review.
- Gray (2007). EA Placement; Fish Utilisation of Intertidal Habitat in the Thames Estuary.
- EA. (2003). Wetland Valuation
- EA. (2002). The Benefits to Fisheries of UK Intertidal Salt Marsh Areas