World Wetlands Day is a celebration of the wonderful world of watery ecosystems. These often overlooked areas are incredibly important to us and our way of life. When in good condition wetlands produce multiple human benefits: they store carbon, reduce flood risk, purify our water, support biodiversity, and protect us from drought!
Wetlands and Climate Change
According to Wetlands International, wetlands are ecosystems that are occasionally or permanently covered with water. They’re home to a variety of habitats from lakes, rivers, fens, peatlands and deltas, to mangroves, coral reefs and seagrass meadows.
Sadly, 87% of the world’s wetlands have been lost over the last 300 years. This is mainly due to human activities such as conversion and draining of land for settlement, industry and agriculture. Wetlands in poor condition due to damage and drainage face further threats from our changing climate and invasive species.
In a healthy state, slowing water flow and creating waterlogged conditions, wetlands accumulate plant matter, which due to a slow rate of decay, captures and stores carbon. During this process carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, is removed from the atmosphere and stored in the soil where it is locked away.
The Isle of Man Government has recently approved a project to restore and rehabilitate peatland ecosystems, with one aim of the project being to increase the atmospheric carbon captured and stored, through rewetting land.
Image: Stoney Mountain
Wetlands and Biodiversity
Wetlands are home to a huge number of animals and plants, often unique and endangered. A staggering 40% of the planet’s species live, breed or feed in wetlands!
Manx wetlands are home to some fascinating species; the carnivorous round-leaved sundew plant, curlew, reed bunting, common lizards, emerald damselflies, bog beacon and many others.
Image: Common frog by Fred Hodgson
Protecting the Island’s wetlands
There are numerous wetlands across the Island, ranging from small upland bogs, wet grasslands, saltmarshes and ponds to the internationally recognised Ballaugh Curragh, a Ramsar wetland site from 2006. Signed in Iran in 1971, the Ramsar convention is dedicated to the conservation and sensible use of wetlands through local and national actions and cooperation to contribute to achieving sustainable development around the world.
Image: Ballaugh Curragh
On the Isle of Man numerous projects and initiatives are underway to restore and rehabilitate wetlands whilst also improving biodiversity - these include:
The Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture and Manx Wildlife Trust also support the Islands farming community in creating desirable permanent habitats, including; dubs, ponds, scrapes and wetland habitat through the Agri-Environment Initiative. This initiative has seen farmers create wetlands which benefit the whole Island and improve biodiversity.
Manx Wildlife Trust Team on a visit to one of their dubs that was dredged under the Agri-Environment Initiative.
Manx Wildlife Trust
Did you know that 26 of the Island’s nature reserves are managed by Manx Wildlife Trust and their dedicated team of volunteers? This includes sites such as the Onchan Wetlands. Home to for a variety of bird species as well as amphibians, Manx Wildlife Trust are holding weekend sessions to restore Onchan Wetlands – to get involved in the restoration of Onchan Wetlands contact Hannah@mwt.im.
Manx Blue Carbon Project
The Manx Blue Carbon Project has been established to learn about the Island’s blue carbon habitats and how best to nurture them - including Salt-marshes, like Poyll Dooey, are one of the three key blue carbon ecosystems (along with seagrass and mangroves). This is to help minimise the impacts of climate change and reverse the loss of biodiversity.
Image: Poyll Dooey Salt Marsh
More information on the Manx Blue Carbon Project here.
Manx BirdLife continue to manage the Point of Ayre National Reserve, an impressive 150 acre reserve that offers a mix of wetland and dry heathland habitats.
Watch here as the Manx BirdLife discover more about the Ayre National Reserve, why it’s important and their future plans for the reserve.
Find out more about the work undertaken by Manx BirdLife here.
Want to get involved with nature and conservation on the Isle of Man? Find out more about the Island’s UNESCO Biosphere here.