Nature’s Recovery: what has wildlife ever done for us? #actfornature

This week in our General Election blog series, we’re addressing the question of the wider benefits of helping nature.

This morning, the BBC ran a news story stating that the World Resources Institute (WRI) has estimated that the number of people worldwide who are affected by flooding could triple in the next 30 years. The annual cost of damage to urban areas in the UK could reach over £1billion.

It’s very easy to think that wildlife conservation is a subject in isolation – a great thing to do for individual species that doesn’t really do much to help us. It’s got feel-good factor without practicality, without economic reality. And therefore it should not take priority.

River re-profiling work at Whitacre Heath SSSI - copyright Pete Thorne (WWT) 2015
River re-profiling work at Whitacre Heath SSSI – copyright Pete Thorne (WWT) 2015

We would encourage you to challenge this on every level. As an organisation we are about people and wildlife – connecting people with wildlife and allowing people to feel the benefits of the natural world. This is not in any way to suggest that to act for wildlife alone has less merit – 60% of species in the UK are in decline, and that is a priority all by itself. However, I want to use this opportunity to talk about how nature benefits us every single day, and why it should be right at the top of the political agenda.

We’ve talked in previous weeks about the enormous benefits that nature can have on our individual health; but this week we would like to discuss how nature can benefit our entire society.

There are numerous examples that I could give, but I’m going to concentrate on wetlands.

If you follow environmental stories in the news then quite possibly one of your key concerns is climate change. There are many strategies out there for reducing the effects of carbon dioxide; however it is too easy to overlook the natural solutions already in place. Peat bogs take up 3% of the world’s surface but store a third of the world’s carbon. Preserving our peat wetlands, and restoring others to health, could have a huge positive impact on the climate.

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Here in the Midlands, the work of the Tame Valley Wetlands Scheme, a partnership project led by Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, is set to carry out large-scale wetland restoration work around the River Tame in the next 4 years. They’re doing incredible work for wildlife, beginning to re-profile and re-naturalise the river at Kingsbury Water Park, restoring vital habitat. This will be followed by the creation of a new reedbed, which will hope to encourage in wetland bird species such as bittern, water rail and reed bunting. Yet all of this has also has an enormous beneficial effect for the future safety of the local residents and their property, as it acts as a natural floodplain, storing excess water and helping to reduce the risk of flooding further down the river.

Aerial view of the Tame Valley - copyright John Ball
Aerial view of the Tame Valley – copyright John Ball

Our wetlands clean our water too, removing up to 60% of the metals and 90% of the nitrogen. And the cost of all this? Providing a whole raft of natural and built heritage projects, the four year Tame Valley Scheme is set to cost £2.5million, with the wetland work being around £800,000 of that – a staggeringly small amount in the context of any prospective government’s budget.

So to misquote Monty Python: apart from the carbon storage, the flood prevention, the cleaner water, the healthier lifestyles, and the incredible biodiversity…. What have our wetlands ever done for us?

Emma

If you’ve been inspired by The Tame Valley Scheme work then please cast your vote for nature by signing The Wildlife Trusts’ e-petition urging MPs to pledge their support for a Nature and Wellbeing Act. Follow the campaign on social media using #actfornature and inspire your friends and family to do their bit for nature too!

Remember to return to this blog next Thursday at 8pm for the next installment in our General Election series. Or click the “Follow” button on the right of this post to follow our blog and receive a notification whenever we post.

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