What Is a Wetland?

Wetlands are diverse and unique ecosystems that are characterized by the presence of water. They can be found all around the world and come in many different forms, including peatlands, marshes, lakes, and estuaries. These areas are seasonally or permanently flooded, creating a habitat that is ideal for a wide range of plants and animals.

They can be freshwater, saltwater, or brackish, and each type supports its own unique community of species. Despite their importance, wetlands are often under threat due to human activities such as draining, filling, and development. It is essential that we work to protect these vital ecosystems for the benefit of both wildlife and people.

What Are the Benefits?

Wetlands are essential ecosystems that are crucial for sustaining diverse plant and animal life. They play a vital role in mitigating climate change by acting as natural carbon sinks, making their restoration crucial. They help prevent flooding by slowing down the rate of water flow downstream. The plants, fungi, and algae present in wetlands are equipped with the ability to filter pollutants, thereby purifying the water in the process.

What kind of species do they support?

Wetlands provide a natural habitat for a wide range of species, including:

• Different types of ducks, such as mallards, pochards, tufted ducks, goldeneyes, and teal.

• Wading birds like dunlins, snipes, curlews, common sandpipers, and redshanks.

• Mammals like beavers, otters, and water voles.

• Aquatic invertebrates including dragonflies, damselflies, mayflies, caddisflies, water boatmen, and snails.

• Grass snakes, which are the most common reptiles found in UK wetlands. They are capable swimmers and feed on amphibians.

• Amphibians, such as the common frog, pool frog, common toad, smooth newt, and great crested newt, which are able to breathe both in and out of the water.

• Fish populations, including the three-spined stickleback, which can be found in ponds, lakes, ditches, and rivers. Despite being only 4-7 cm long, they hunt tadpoles and even smaller fish.

What Types of Plants Are Commonly Found?

Wetlands throughout the UK are home to a variety of plant species that provide essential habitats for many animals.

• Great reedmace and common reed are widespread in UK wetlands providing habitats for reed-dwelling birds, dragonfly nymphs, and harvest mice.

• Carnivorous plants, such as bladderworts, grow in freshwater preying on small organisms including water fleas, nematodes, and mosquito larvae.

• Plants that have adapted to live in saltmarshes include sea lavender, sea aster, and glasswort.

Threats to Wetland Habitats

The UK has lost more than 90% of its wetland habitats due to drainage and excessive extraction of resources, especially peatland for fuel and garden usage. This has led to a severe decline in the natural ability of wetlands to reduce water pollution.

Despite their crucial role in maintaining the ecosystem, pollution still poses a significant threat to the existence of wetlands. For instance, fertilizers containing nitrates and phosphates lead to the growth of excess algae, causing the formation of algal blooms. These blooms prevent oxygen and sunlight from reaching other aquatic life forms, ultimately leading to their death.

Addressing these issues is critical to protecting the remaining wetlands and preserving their essential role in maintaining a healthy environment.

Managing Wetlands

Old Kiln Lakes is a site in Oxfordshire, consisting of four lakes that have been created from an old quarry. One of the four lakes has been specifically named ‘The Wetland Habitat’ onsite, having had a fence installed around the perimeter to protect the birds that thrive on the site.

There are two bird hides on site that have been provided to prevent disturbance to the birds and other animals in the area, the wetland birds that have been recorded here include teal, black-headed gulls, herons, mallards, coots, tufted ducks and cormorants.

Other birds that thrive in the surrounding vegetation include Blue Tits, Long-tailed Tits, Robins, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, and Song Thrush.

Old Kiln Lakes Through The Seasons

Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter

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