1 September 2009
Natural England announces new funding for a ‘Wetland Vision’
Swathes of England’s lost or degraded wetlands will be restored to their boggy beginnings, thanks to £4million worth of funding from Natural England for almost 2000 hectares of wetland recovery projects over the next two years. As the Wetland Vision project celebrates its first anniversary, this new funding will benefit grazing marshes, raised bogs, reedbeds and fragile fenland across England.
Money is being given to conservation organisations including The Wildlife Trusts and RSPB, who will work with the Environment Agency and English Heritage to manage the careful process of re-wetting the land. The restoration of watery habitats will help a multitude of wildlife including declining bird species such as snipe and redshank. Wetlands can also benefit the public by providing a natural water store to help prevent flooding.
Dr Helen Phillips, Chief Executive for Natural England: said: “It may be hard to imagine, but England was once a much wetter place than it is today. Around 90 percent of the soft and squelchy bogs and marshes have been lost over the last 1000 years. Healthy wetlands are a unique and vital habitat for wildlife and provide fantastic places for people to visit.
“Wetlands make important contributions to the quality of our lives. They can be important natural flood defences, helping to filter and clean our water supplies; and peat bogs lock up dangerous green house gas emissions which contribute to climate change. Since 2008 Natural England has allocated £6 million to conservation partners who are restoring these important landscapes. From Morecambe Bay to the East Anglian Fens, projects are underway across the country to put the squelch back into the countryside.”
In addition to the £4million from Natural England, partners will allocate additional funds for their individual projects. Over time these wetlands are expected to provide homes for spectacular and iconic species such as bittern and crane; white faced darter and large heath butterfly; water voles and eels; and rare plant communities of fens and raised bogs.
Sue Armstrong-Brown, RSPB head of countryside conservation, said: “Wetland habitats are very special places because not only are there many species which rely on them, but they will also play an important role in helping us adapt to climate change. The funding that has been announced today will be a real boost for our efforts to restore lost wetlands and protect existing habitats through a range of exciting projects across the UK.
“The Wetland Vision is more relevant now than ever because there are some really big changes taking place in the way we manage water, including the EU’s Water Framework Directive and the Government’s Floods and Water Bill which will come up in parliament later this year. We now have a shared vision of where we want our wetlands to be by 2050, and if we can achieve that we will have done something amazing for our natural world.”
The Environment Agency is delighted with the news of this extra funding for wetlands. Alastair Driver, Conservation Policy Manager said "The Environment Agency is a key deliverer of the Wetland Vision for England, and we are well underway with an ambitious programme of large-scale wetland habitat creation, with 200 hectares of freshwater wetland habitat created in 2008/09 and a further 700 hectares to be created over the next two years.
He added: "This extra £4M from Natural England, enables the Wetland Vision partnership to deliver even more new habitat at some of our project sites, as well as at other sites which are not on the Agency's programme, thus improving the overall quality and quantity of England's wetland resource."
Wetland projects to receive funding over the next two years include the East Anglian fens, Humberhead Levels, Midlands Meres and Mosses, Morecambe Bay Wetlands, the Somerset Levels and the River Till in Northumberland*
Notes to editors:
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The East Anglian fens
The East Anglian fens £528k to help Norfolk Wildlife Trust create a new 97ha mosaic of reedbed, fen and floodplain grazing marsh on former arable land within their Wissey Living Landscape area near Downham Market. This new area will expand on wetland creation already underway nearby to provide a significant 175ha ‘stepping stone’ for wildlife, helping it adapt and move in the face of future climate change and linking with other major Fens-region wetlands to the south and west.
Natural England will also provide funds (£130k) for a second year for the wetland habitat creation project in the south Lincolnshire fenlands. Here the project objective is the re-establishment of a large area of fenland for people and wildlife in southern Lincolnshire - centred on the nationally important Baston and Thurlby Fens Nature Reserves & Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust has secured an area of land at Willow Tree Farm enabling this long term objective to be realised and the Natural England funding will help in the purchase and management of this land for wildlife.The membership of the South Lincolnshire Fenlands Partnership will include the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, Natural England, Environment Agency, Lincolnshire County Council, Lincolnshire FWAG, South Kesteven District Council, South Holland District Council, Welland & Deepings IDB, Waterside Garden Centre, and community representatives.
The Humberhead levels
The Humberhead levels is an area spreading over 2000 square kilometres, a flat landscape of big skies, wetlands and mainly arable farmland criss-crossed with rivers and dykes. Since the 17th century, large areas of its important wetlands have been lost due to drainage schemes and extraction of peat and coal. Natural England’s funding (£594k) will contribute to a series of linked projects which have been identified by the Humberhead Levels Partnership, which will create and restore 167ha of wetland habitat, towards their overall target of 2320ha for the Humberhead levels. The scheme involves Natural England, the Environment Agency, RSPB, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trusts, the Burnet Trust and Isle of Axholme IDB all working closely together to achieve the vision for the Humberhead levels wetlands.
The Midlands Meres and Mosses Revival Project
The West Midlands Meres and Mosses comprise one of the most significant wetland landscapes in lowland Britain, extending over a large part of southern Cheshire and northern parts of Shropshire and Staffordshire. The condition of the constituent sites (of which there are hundreds) is generally poor, with many once-linked wetlands now isolated from one another other by intensive farmland and drained peat. This project aims to restore and reconnect the Meres and Mosses landscape. Natural England is funding £486k towards restoration work with English Heritage, the Wildlife Trusts, the RSPB and Local Authorities on a number of the mosses, meres and grazing marsh to achieve immediate biodiversity gain for lowland raised bog, fen and wet grassland habitats.
The Morecambe Bay wetlands
Natural England is contributing £1.05m and working with the Environment Agency, RSPB, Cumbria Wildlife Trust, the Forestry Commission, The National Trust, Cumbria Tourism and Lancashire and Blackpool Tourism to enhance the network of wetland sites around Morecambe Bay by securing and restoring existing wetland sites in the Lyth Valley, reedbed restoration at Leighton Moss RSPB reserve and restoration of 60ha lowland raised bog at Witherslack Mosses. The focus is on restoration of grazing marsh and lowland raised bog where, in the face of a potential change in drainage, we are working to explore a future for the valley which would deliver long term benefits for both wildlife and the local economy.
River Till floodplain, Northumberland
The River Till is important in both a national and a European context with the river being designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation. Natural England’s funding (£133k) will assist the Tweed Forum, the Environment Agency and the Tweed Foundation to improve existing wetland habitats and create new ones within the catchment of the River Till under the River Till Floodplain Restoration Project, which was set up in 2006. New biodiversity rich wetland habitats such as ponds and wet grassland will be created and some degraded mires and ox-bow lakes will be restored. The work will also enable the development of a new phase of work which provides an opportunity to work from hill to valley bottom for the wholesale management of areas within the wider catchment.
Somerset Levels and Moors
Natural England will be contributing £409k to two schemes: the Somerset Wildlife Trust Brue Valley Living Landscapes Project which is 50% funded through the Water Adaption is Valuable for Everyone (WAVE) EU INTERREG Project, and the RSPB Middle Parrett floodplain restoration project. Through land purchase and habitat management we will be restoring disused peat working sites to reedbed and enhancing other wetland habitats such as wet grassland for the benefit of a range of wetland species. This work will complement other habitat management across the Somerset levels in partnership with the Somerset Wildlife Trust, RSPB and Environment Agency which aims to bring back some of the lost wetland glory to this pre-eminent wetland landscape.
Wetlands are some of the most important landscapes on earth and they are under threat. These landscapes provide vital wildlife habitats and public services. By increasing the natural capacity of the countryside to absorb and hold excess water, the risk of flooding could be decreased. The restoration and enhancement of peat bogs could prevent thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the atmosphere every year. The Wetland Vision project unites five of the UK's leading environmental organisations in a bid to restore and re-create a network of wetlands for the benefit of people and wildlife alike. Many of the projects will also benefit the historic environment, as protecting wetlands conserves buried archaeology and fragile and irreplaceable historical archives.
Natural England works for people, places and nature to conserve and enhance biodiversity, landscapes and wildlife in rural, urban, coastal and marine areas. We conserve and enhance the natural environment for its intrinsic value, the wellbeing and enjoyment of people, and the economic prosperity it brings.