World Wetlands Day

This week, on Wednesday we celebrated World Wetlands Day. A day dedicated to the promotion, protection and admiration of wetlands. Wetlands are such a remarkable and important habitat – they filter drinking water, alleviate flooding, restore biodiversity, protect against and alleviate climate change pressures, provide habitat for millions of species, and do so much more! 40% of ALL species on earth rely on freshwater wetlands, even though they only cover less than 1% of the world – that is quite a staggering fact!

Mute swans (Cygnus olor) at loch Leven national Nature reserve. ©Lorne Gill/SNH

Loch Leven NNR in itself is such a massively important wetland holding many international, European and UK designations. Loch Leven is known as a RAMSAR site – a site specifically designated as an internationally important wetland. The name comes from the first international wetlands convention, held in Ramsar, Iran in 1971. This convention produced a treaty which was signed to protect wetlands all around the world, and Loch Leven was on this original treaty – amongst many other famous and important wetlands including; Lake Baikal in Russia and Everglades National Park in America. As of 2021 there are now 2500 sites listed as RAMSAR across the world. Loch Leven is also an SPA (Special Protection Area) which identifies it as a special site for waterfowl species including; Whooper Swan, Tufted Duck, Shoveler, Pochard, Pink-footed Goose, Greylag Goose, Goldeneye, Gadwall, Cormorant and all of the high number populations of wintering waterfowl on the loch. We can see up to 60,000 birds on the loch, Loch Leven is a true safe-haven for thousands of species – migratory and resident.

Tufted Duck and one pochard…
Pink-footed Geese!

Loch Leven is the most productive freshwater body in western Europe (i.e the highest breeding density of freshwater ducks in western Europe), so this is a wetland that we need to continue to protect!

It’s not just the birds that make Loch Leven special. The loch provides habitat for a healthy vascular plant assemblage, Loch Leven supports hundreds of plants, some of which locally scarce and rare.

Lesser-butterfly Orchid
A lovely wet meadow with common spotted x northern marsh orchid
Wonderful meadows! Germander Speedwell and Buttercups

With plants come a dazzling array of insects – butterflies, dragon & damselflies, true flies, bees, moths – you name it, wetlands support them!

An orange-tip (Anthocharis cardamines) butterfly. ©Lorne Gill
Common Blue Butterfly

Wetlands are so unbelievably diverse, they include bogs, swamps, lakes, wet meadows, vast estuaries, rivers and so much more. They support a whole host of biodiversity from birds to fish to orchids to bees. They are an extremely important habitat for a fantastic array of species! Wetlands are also the most effective carbon sinks in the world. Which makes it even sadder to figure out that over 35% of the worlds wetlands have disappeared in the last 50 years. Over 80% of freshwater species are in decline and over 85% of rivers of the UK do not meet good ecological status. A range of issues are causing the decline of wetlands; development, pollution, climate change and non-native invasive species. Wetlands are disappearing faster than forests… they truly are in danger!

Displaying Goldeneye

However, if we continue to promote, restore, create and expand healthy wetlands then we can help reverse the decline. That’s what makes our job here at Loch Leven NNR so fulfilling – we are safeguarding the loch and its wildlife for the future.

Tufted duck (Aythya fuligula) stretching its wings. ©Lorne Gill/SNH

We need to continue to shout about, protect and love wetlands! Where better to see a functional, healthy and rich wetland than right here at Loch Leven NNR! So, why don’t you get out to your local wetland and enjoy all of the biodiversity that is has to offer.

About SimonR

I am a keen naturalist/wildlife conservationist from North-East Scotland. I work at Loch Leven National Nature Reserve as a Reserve Officer and have a deep interest in conservation and wildlife management in Scotland. Keen Birder, naturalist and practical habitat management enthusiast.
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1 Response to World Wetlands Day

  1. Anne says:

    This has been a fascinating and informative read – beautifully illustrated too.

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