World Wetlands Day in the United Kingdom
The annual CIWEM conference
The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM)
WETLANDS: A VICTIM OF CLIMATE CHANGE BUT A WEAPON AGAINST IT
Wetlands were identified as an invaluable resource at CIWEM's World Wetlands Day conference.
World Wetlands Day is celebrated each year on 2nd February to mark the signing of the Convention on Wetlands on 2nd February 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar. Activities which promote the value of wetlands are organised all around the world. This is the sixth annual World Wetlands Day Conference that CIWEM has organised.
During his opening speech at the conference, Barry Gardiner MP, Minister for Biodiversity, Landscape and Rural Affairs, called for a rethink on the way we treat our wetlands. Although caretakers of this planet, he described how we have over-exploited it for short-term gain. He said that wetlands are major resource, not least because they are 'a weapon against climate change, not just a victim of it'. The Minister went on to highlight recent projects in the Humber estuary and at Wallasea Island, Essex where wetlands have been re-created to manage flood risk and provide important habitat for protected bird species. The Minister warned that such crucial ecosystem services must be considered in government decision-making processes.
He said it was essential that we take a holistic approach when working with nature and praised such examples as China's Dongtan eco-city. Professor Charles (Si) Simenstad from the University of Washington, Seattle also gave an international dimension with his presentation on the challenge of restoring wetlands in coastal Louisiana where on average over 90km2 of wetlands are lost each year. Post-Hurricane Katrina, the challenge has become even greater because authorities anxious to improve hurricane protection in the region have mistakenly regarded extensive high-walled levees as the best protection, despite scientific evidence suggesting that wetlands can lessen storm surges.
David Stroud from the UK Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) described how the priority for the UK government is to develop and manage designated Ramsar sites in Britain's Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies which include islands such as Bermuda and Gibraltar. The JNCC hopes to facilitate links with other Small Island States in order to help the Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies protect their wetland habitats which are often pressurised by development.
Another highlight from the conference was Helen Smith's presentation on the Little Ouse Headwaters Project, a small community-run project which was last year awarded the RSPB/CIWEM Living Wetlands Award. Helen described how the project, based on the Norfolk-Suffolk border, was set up by local people wanting to re-develop a synergy between themselves and the Fens. Managing 40 hectares of riparian habitat across 5 sites, the volunteers have created a haven for nationally-important wildlife, accessible greenspace for recreation, and even bolstered the local rural economy by the awarding of contracts locally. The project is a great example of the multiple benefits from sustainably managed wetlands.
Barry Gardiner MP, Minister for Biodiversity, Landscape and Rural Affairs
1. The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) is an independent professional body and a registered charity, advancing the science and practice of water and environmental management for a clean, green and sustainable world.
2. Details of CIWEM's programme of forthcoming events are available at http://www.ciwem.org/events.
3. The annual RSPB/CIWEM Living Wetlands Award is presented to a project which demonstrates the multiple functions and sustainable use of wetland habitats. Further details about the Award are available at http://www.ciwem.org/awards.