2 February 2014 is World Wetlands Day, a day to focus on wetland habitats.
These are not only home to rare wildlife, they also provide many of the things which society relies upon.
Wetlands can help to retain flood water, purify it, and help the rural economy by bringing areas of largely unproductive farmland land back into use as grazing.
Wales is home to many types of wetlands including fens, bogs, grazing marshes, swamps, marshy grasslands and of course lakes, ponds and rivers.
Natural Resources Wales works closely with thousands of landowners and other organisations to restore and maintain many of our nation’s wetlands.
In North Wales, the LIFE Project has restored approximately 1,850 acres (the size of 1,000 football pitches) of wetland fens on Anglesey and the Llŷn Peninsula.
While in South Wales the Crymlyn Bog is a haven for wildlife between industrialised East Swansea and Neath Port Talbot where people can see the rare fen raft spider – Britain’s largest – and various birds of prey.
Some wetlands are only seasonally flooded or waterlogged, such as marshy grassland. Others, such as our peat-forming wetlands, are wet all year round.
Wetlands also have a key role to play in the battle against climate change. With the potential for drier summers, managing wetlands is vital, because in peak condition they can capture and store massive amounts of carbon that would otherwise be released into rivers and the atmosphere.
Wales’ upland wetlands, in particular the blanket bogs which stretch all the way along the upland spine of Wales, provide dramatic wild open spaces and contribute much to the character of the landscape.
A spokesperson for Natural Resources Wales said: “Many of Wales’ wetlands are also National Nature Reserves which we manage to restore and conserve their natural features - the plants and wildlife that rely on them. The array of wildlife and easy access along board walks and paths also make them great places for people to visit and enjoy.”
Here’s a taste of some of Natural Resources Wales’ managed wetlands…….
During winter, the Newport Wetlands bustle with a variety of birds visiting from a colder climate. Coots, egrets and herons are common sights on the reserve’s reedbeds. The rare golden-eye duck, short-eared owl and merlin are also visitors.
There is a three kilometre network of paths around the reedbeds which are easy to walk and suitable for wheelchair users and pushchairs. Dogs are only permitted on the footpath that runs along the outside of the reedbeds. There is a designated cycle path.
Newport Wetlands Reserve including the RSPB Environmental Education and Visitor Centre is open every day over the winter from 9am-5pm.
The reserve is owned and managed by Natural Resources Wales who work in partnership with the RSPB Cymru and Newport City Council for the benefit of wildlife and people.
To celebrate World Wetlands Day a walk will take place at Newport Wetlands on Sunday 2nd February 9.40am – 11.30am
The walk will start in the car park and will go on to explore the reedbeds and look out over the Severn Estuary. If you decide to come along, look out for over-wintering wildfowl such as the tufted duck, pochard, gadwall, wigeon, shelduck and shoveler and waders such as curlew and dunlin.
Crymlyn Bog and Pant y Sais
When you drive into Swansea along busy Fabian Way, you are completely unaware of the natural wonder that hides just beyond the road.
With a car park provided and a marked route that’s open to the public all year round, its close vicinity to the city means that local people can be immersed in wildlife in no time at all.
Keep an eye out for the largest native spider in Britain – the Fen raft spider, usually perched on a leaf or plant ready to pounce on passing prey – it is only found in three sites across the UK. The wide variety of birds and invertebrates are easier to spot.
Covering a huge area of over 800 hectares and 6km in length Cors Caron is home to a wide range of wildlife and plants. The reserve boasts three raised bogs - areas of deep peat that have built up over the last 12,000 years – and these, in turn, are surrounded by a complex and unique mix of habitats.
With a high quality bird hide it is one of the best places to enjoy birds at their winter-feeding site. The site attracts 20,000 visitors a year.
With boardwalks (3.5km) - accessible for wheelchair users, surfaced paths (6km) and a riverside walk (7.5km) there’s an adventure for everyone to enjoy. The abundance of insects provide a valuable source of food for birds and mammals. Otters, water voles, water shrews and polecats can be found on the reserve.
Anglesey Llyn and Fens The Anglesey and Llŷn Fens Project is one of the largest and most ambitious of its kind in Europe and is funded by the EU LIFE project. It consists of 11 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), four of which are also National Nature Reserves – Cors Bodeilio, Cors Erddreiniog, Cors Geirch and Cors Goch.
The Anglesey and Llyn Fens LIFE Project has combined big wetland restoration projects (approximately 1,850 acres - the size of 1,000 football pitches) with improving flood retention, water quality improvement and making more land available for grazing.
The project is nearing its end but the lessons learned will be applied to lots of other wildlife sites.