The Importance of Wetlands in the UK

Wetlands appear in every continent on Earth, even Antarctica.

And they are not simply marshes or swamps. A wetland is any ecosystem that is covered in liquid water, either permanently, or periodically, where the result is soil or sand with high moisture and low oxygen.

The largest in the world include the Amazon Basin, The Ganges Delta, the West Siberian Plain, and The Pantanal in South America.

But here in the UK, they present themselves as marshes, floodplains, estuaries, and peat bogs and fens, with each one providing food, water, and shelter for native wildlife and migrating birds. 

Wetlands are one of the most biodiverse environments in the UK.

  • Microscopic organisms such as ciliates, and mini-beasts like water snails, live in the mud.
  • Amphibians, fish, arthropods, and even reptiles swim through the water.
  • Birds, insects, and mammals feed, drink, and breed at the surface
  • 40% of our planet’s species live or breed in them.

And throughout the whole system are plants as small as algae, and as large as trees.

But how do Wetlands Benefit us?

They are one of the best natural methods of water purification, removing silt, animal waste, and chemicals. In fact, people replicate this and construct their own artificial wetlands to treat human waste, industrial and domestic grey water, and to divert runoff from drains and roads.

Coastal wetlands stabilise shorelines and reduce the damage caused by storms. Internationally, shorelines with mangroves can lessen the damage of hurricanes and closer to home, they act as flood control.

They are also great for tourism and mental health. Wetland walks – along with other “green walking” activities – have shown promise in reducing the symptoms of anxiety.

photo of wetlands

They also help to protect us against climate change. As plants grow they convert carbon dioxide into complicated carbon compounds. When they die, other organisms digest them and return the carbon dioxide to the air.

However, in wetlands they are submerged in a low oxygen environment and much of this organic carbon remains trapped. Over geological time this turns into peat, fossil fuels, or is stored in sedimentary rocks rather than being released into our atmosphere.

Wetlands at Risk

Wetlands are one of the most delicate ecosystems, and due to human interference through issues such as draining or damming, installing flood barriers, or allowing untreated effluent to pour directly into them, they are shrinking. 

90% have shrunk or been unrecognisably altered in the last 3 centuries. 35% disappeared completely in the last 50 years. We are losing wetlands three times faster than forests. Without action, this trend will continue. 

‘Revive and restore degraded wetlands’ was the theme for this year’s World Wetlands Day, highlighting the importance of wetland restoration. Well-restored sites can provide many of the services performed by the original natural wetland.

An urgent call to take action and to invest financial, human and political capital is this year’s appeal to save the world’s wetlands from disappearing altogether — and to restore those we have already lost.

4th Corner’s Commitment to Environmental Improvement

4th Corner are committed to improving the UK’s biodiversity.

Having the ISO 14001 Environmental Management System enables 4th Corner to comply with stringent environmental laws and regulations and gives us the knowledge and experience to be able to offer our clients environmentally responsible solutions to landscape maintenance and management.

We also offer biodiversity packs to our clients.  We have developed our Biodiversity Packs to engage people with nature and to enhance and protect our landscapes.  We hope that these simple additions will help our Property Managers, CLO’s and Resident Committee’s make the most of their gardens and grounds, for the benefit of residents and the native wildlife.

Visit the Official website of World Wetlands Day for more information.

Recent News Articles

New Hibernaculum at Lioncourt Homes Site

How does Climate Change Effect Trees?

How to Increase Garden Wildlife