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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

NI Water highlights efforts on World Wetlands Day to preserve and protect vital areas of biodiversity

Natural peat dams at the Garron Plateau Special Area of Conservation in County Antrim.

Natural peat dams at the Garron Plateau Special Area of Conservation in County Antrim.


World Wetlands Day is celebrated across the world every year on 2nd February, with this year’s theme shining the spotlight on ‘Wetlands and human wellbeing’.

 

This year also marks the first anniversary of the Ramsar convention on Wetlands, which provides extra protection to these habitats which are declining three times faster than forests across the world.

 



Closer to home, NI Water would like to share its important restoration work to highlight the importance of wetland areas and how everyone’s everyday activities impact on local rivers, streams and ponds.


NI Water Catchment Liaison Officer, Kerry Morris, explained:


“Wetlands are among the world’s most fruitful areas for biodiversity; in particular, they are essential to a diverse array of wildlife in providing a transitional habitat between dry land and deep water.

 

“This year’s campaign explores how interconnected wetlands and human life are, with people drawing sustenance, inspiration and resilience form these productive ecosystems. All aspects of human wellbeing are tied to the health of the world’s wetlands.

 



“In Northern Ireland we are lucky to have a large range of wetland types, some of which are vital habitats for freshwater and amphibian species. In inland areas you can find marshes, peatlands or swamps whereas on coastal areas you can find lagoons or saltwater marshes. These are dynamic landscapes which change every day due to incoming water flows and precipitation.

 

“World Wetlands Day provides a great opportunity to remind us all that we need to take care of and appreciate our wetland areas. Wetlands and human life are very much interconnected. They are important ecosystems. Every wetland matters and every effort counts to ensure their protection.”



One of the drainage trenches at Dungonnell wetlands that was dammed using natural materials to raise the water table during bog restoration works.

One of the drainage trenches at Dungonnell wetlands that was dammed using natural materials to raise the water table during bog restoration works.


Some of the benefits wetland areas can provide include:


• They help clean the raw water in the environment by removing pollutants through natural filtration


• Wetlands reduce the risks of climate change. For example, peatlands contain large amounts of sphagnum moss, which is extremely effective at absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere. A well-managed and properly functioning peatland can reduce carbon emissions and are one way to mitigate climate change


• Wetlands can slow downstream flooding and prevent damage from storm events


• Spending time in these beautiful landscapes is good for health and wellbeing, and can often be home to many rare birds, insects and animals

 



Kerry continued:


“Human wellbeing is irrevocably tied to the state of the world’s wetlands. But they must be healthy if they are to continue to provide us with water and food, support biodiversity, provide livelihoods, protect against extreme weather events, and mitigate against climate change.

 

“Locally, there are over 80,000 hectares of wetland in Northern Ireland, including Bog Meadows, Glenarm, Moyola Waterfoot and Lagan Meadows. NI Water’s pond and nature area at Duncrue is an extremely important asset within Inner Belfast and its currently being upgraded to encourage wildlife to the area and provide a home to protect a variety of plants and animals.

 

“NI Water’s work continues to invest in the future sustainability of our local wetlands. The benefits are economically, socially and culturally essential in helping humans to overcome the climate-biodiversity crisis and to delivering sustainable development goals for the benefit of all people.”

 



Some examples of NI Water’s work to help protect local wetlands includes:

 

• Carrying out restoration works on areas of peatland we own. For example, over 500 hectares of peatland have been successfully restored on NI Water land at Dungonnell WTW, Co Antrim. This benefits raw water quality, enhances wildlife habitats and also improves the carbon capturing ability of the land


• Using drain blocking, cell bunding and natural peat dams two former areas of forestry were restored into peatland. This restored 60 hectares of unused land back to functioning peatland which will benefit local wildlife at Lough Bradan and at Tullychurry which is in Pettigoe Plateau Special Protection Area (SPA)



• Ensure all habitat designations on our lands such as ASSI’s, SAC’s and AONB’s are managed sustainably and that we cause no damage to these sensitive landscapes


• NI Water works on close cooperation with environmental NGO’s to manage and actively enhance wildlife habitats in sensitive upland and wetland areas


• NI Water adheres to the Water Framework Directive regulations and works with the NIEA to ensure all water abstractions are controlled and sustainable through abstraction licenses

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