Happy World Wetlands Day everyone! Today (2nd February) is World Wetlands Day, a day dedicated to promoting, appreciating and loving our wetlands. If Loch Leven had it’s own special day of celebration then today would be it!
Many organisations around the world, NatureScot included, have been crucial to support, promote, create and sustain our wetlands. Here in Scotland, there are many different places that class as wetland sites including bogs, marshes, swamps, fens, springs and flushes, and wet heaths. If you want to go out and visit a wetland this Wetlands Day, you may chose to visit any number of sites and NNR’s in Scotland, but why not make Loch Leven NNR your chosen destination? Loch Leven NNR is one of Scotland’s (and dare I say, the worlds) most important wetlands, for many reasons including the ample habitat it provides for thousands of wintering and breeding birds.
Before I dive in to why Loch Leven specifically is a wetland we should all appreciate, today is also a day to appreciate all of our worlds wetlands, no matter how big or far away they may be. Wetlands are important for many reasons – they are some of the most biodiverse places on earth with about 40% of plants and animals depending on these habitats! From birds to butterflies, plants to amphibians, these are incredibly important places to protect if we want to see a wide range of species in the future! As well as this, wetlands are also crucial to manage water levels and prevent floods, store water, filter out pollutants, and store carbon.
Loch Leven NNR is an extremely important wetland site and it has many designations that make it special and give it protection. Firstly, it is a RAMSAR site which designates it as an internationally important wetland. RAMSAR sites are named after the very first wetland convention in Ramsar, Iran in 1971 in which 2331 wetland sites across the world were given special protection of which Loch Leven NNR was one of them – this adds up to about 810,000 square miles of protected wetland! Loch Leven NNR is also a Special Protection Area (SPA) due to it’s importance as a site for wildfowl so this really is an important place!
At peak (around October) Loch Leven NNR can have around 80,000 birds on the loch such as Tufted Duck, Pochard, Coot, Teal, Wigeon and many many more! Migratory species join our large numbers of residents as Loch Leven is an important migration station for birds all over Europe – it’s the perfect stopping off site for birds travelling north or south. As well as migrating birds, our breeding birds are just as important. Loch Leven is the most productive freshwater body in western Europe (it has the highest number of breeding ducks) so it’s important year round!
It’s not just Loch Leven’s birds that make it so special – wetlands like Loch Leven are also incredibly important for specialist plants such as Lesser-butterfly Orchid and Grass of Parnassus, and insects such as dragonflies, damselflies, bees, butterflies and more!
Loch Leven is of course a wetland in itself, but the NNR as a whole also encompasses other wetland sites. Wetlands can come in all shapes and sizes, bog sites such as Carsehall Bog on the East side of the loch, and ‘hydromorphological mires’ (say that 3 times fast!) such as Findatie flush are all important wetlands in their own right.
Unfortunately, despite their importance for biodiversity, as carbon sinks, to alleviate climate change pressures and much more, they are in trouble! 35% of our wetlands have disappeared since 1970, and wetlands are disappearing three times faster than forests – that’s quite scary! Development, pollution, climate change and more are all contributing factors to their decline. That’s why it’s more important now than ever to protect our existing wetlands and safeguard them for the future, as well as restoring and expanding our wetlands to protect this crucial habitat!
So today, and as long as we can, we will be supporting, promoting and enjoying our wetlands, across the world and right here at Loch Leven NNR!