UK wetlands under threat

Many of the UK's best wetlands are suffering from inadequate management of water resources, says the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) in a new review which highlights the twenty important wetland sites most at risk.

The review is issued as an international conference starts in Costa Rica at which the UK Government will be defending its record on wetland protection. As international experts meet at the Ramsar Conference to discuss problems facing the world’s wetlands, the RSPB reveals that many wetlands across the UK remain under threat despite being designated for their importance.

Coastal wetlands face inundation resulting from sea level rise. The North Norfolk Coast Ramsar site has important areas of saltmarsh, reedbed and freshwater mere which are breeding areas for bittern, avocet and marsh harrier, as well as wintering grounds for waders and wildfowl.

Inland, grazing marshes are being damaged by poor water management. On the Pevensey Levels in East Sussex, low water levels have resulted in the habitat drying out, preventing wading birds from feeding their young.

Phil Rothwell, RSPB head of policy operations, said: “Ramsar sites are the very best wetland areas we possess but protection by name is not enough. The Government must ensure these sites are granted the levels of protection they deserve and are managed wisely.

“The full benefits which wetlands provide to people and wildlife need to be identified and their full value must be recognised” continued Mr Rothwell. “Many wetlands are of value for managing floods and water resources. They are of historical significance, support important wildlife populations and provide an amenity for people to enjoy. Any management of wetlands needs to encompass their wise use with support given to landowners who undertake good management.”

‘People and Wetlands – The Vital Link’ is the theme of the 7th Ramsar Conference which meets in Costa Rica this week. The first UK Ramsar site was identified in 1976 and to date 137 sites have been designated.

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