Chris Packham and a team of wildlife experts spent a year exploring every inch of a series of back gardens in Welwyn Garden City. The gardens are all interlinked, and Packham and the team want to find out how much wildlife lives beyond our back doors, and how good is wildlife for the British garden?
Amongst other things, Chris meets a family of foxes and a ball of frisky frogs.
By the end of the year, Chris will find out how well our gardens support wildlife and how many different species call our gardens home.
A team from London’s Natural History Museum are among those who are involved in the programme.
Back in 1971 on 2 February, the Convention on Wetlands was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar which sits on the shores of the Caspian Sea
Today, the 2nd February is a really important day for people and wildlife, because it’s a chance to highlight how important wetlands are to us all. They are where land meets sea. The 2nd February is World Wetlands Day.
This year, the theme is “Wetlands and Water”.
Where are wetlands?
Wetlands cover areas such as shores, estuaries, mudflats, floodplains, coastal marshes, local ponds, the bog and pond in your garden, mangrove swamps, seagrass beds, and rivers. They cover a very small of the earth’s surface – and yet they are one of the most important habitats on our planet.
"If rainforests are the lungs of the planet, then wetlands are the lifeblood. As much as we need air to breathe, we need water to live. The conservation of our wetlands is essential to all life on earth.” WWT
Why wetlands matter to people:
They provide us with drinking water
They store a third of the world’s carbon emissions
They buffer us from floods and droughts
They are important for our health and wellbeing
Why do wetlands matter to wildlife?
40% of all plant and animal species live or breed here.
Sundarbans National Park (India) is formed of tidal rivers, creeks and canals and supports species such as the single largest population of tiger, and aquatic mammals such as the Irrawaddy and Ganges River dolphins, all under threat.
So what’s happening to wetlands in our changing world?
A recent global IPBES assessment identified wetlands as the most threatened ecosystem. This impacts 40% of the world’s plant and animal species that live or breed in wetlands.
Our wetlands are threatened by:
Beavering away to address these problems are organisations such as the World Heritage Centre. An example of its work is the Okavango Delta which has incredible biodiversity but is threatened thanks to development pressure. It’s home to indigenous peoples and wildlife such as the cheetah, white rhinos, black rhinos, lion and the African wild dog. In 2019, the State Parties of Namibia, Botswana and Angola agreed a roadmap to explore the boundary extension of the World Heritage Site here to protect the river basin and the unique wetland system.
In the UK, there’s the WWT –Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust but of course its work extends well beyond the UK.
WWT say that:
Between 1970 and 2014, populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptile species declined by a dreadful 60%
In the last 400 years, England has lost 90% of her wetlands
30% of known fish species, many at risk amphibians and reptiles, migratory and resident water birds,, and thousands of plant species life here.
However, the WWT is working hard to create, protect and restore – it believes we can reverse the decline and bring wetlands back to life. Its conservation projects strengthen the link between wetlands, wildlife and people, both in the UK and further afield. Find out more about their plans for 2020
So what can we all do to help wetland conservation?
WWT can create new wetlands in a few months and years – so your support can really make a difference quickly. But there’s something we can all do to help and you’ll find more links and further resources further down.
Create a pond in your garden, local area or school
Visit a wetland close to you and spend time there. Use your senses while you visit. Listen to the sounds you can hear; look at the sights, smell the scents.
Support the conservation work of your local wetlands charity
Volunteer for local wetland charities
Donate to wetland charities – look out for their appeals
World Wetland Network – a collection of NGOs and Civil Society Groups all working for wetland conservation
Wetland Link International – a support network for wetland education centres which deliver engagement activities on site. The WWT in the UK lead it; it has 350 members over 6 continents!
RAMSAR – The Convention on Wetlands is an intergovernmental treaty which provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.
World Wetlands Day – held every year on 2 February to raise awareness of the importance of wetlands and how we can all help
Good news for those of you who don’t like mowing your lawn and would love a really good reason not to bother.
Well, mowing the lawn could attract 10 x the number of bees that you would usually get!
Give bees a Super Lawn!
Lawns cut every four weeks are being called “super lawns” and it’s reckoned that they attract 4,000 bees a day on average.
However, those cut regularly to keep them neat and tidy bring in just an average of 400 bees a day.
This is a HUGE difference.
Take part in a citizen science project: Every Flower Counts!
This has all been worked out by charity Plantlife. They’ve got an Every Flower Counts survey. Nearly 2,000 households were asked how often they mow their lawns; and then they were asked to count the number of wild flowers in one squared patches.
Daisies were most abundant on lawns, followed by white clover and the violet coloured selfheal.
Asking those surveyed to count 24 different wildflowers, Plantlife could work out how much nectar the whole garden produced – and how many bees that could support.
And that’s where they discovered that one in five lawns called super lawns would entice ten times more bees.
Let your lawn grow
So Plantlife advise that we keep sections of our lawn long so that we can support wild flowers such as oxeye daisy, field scabious, knapweed and even orchids. Daisies and white clover are short stemmed wild plants – they produce more flowers if cut back once a month.
So some parts of your lawn should have a monthly cut to boost short plants. And we should all put aside an area for longer grass – what Plantlife call a Mohican haircut!
Bees and butterflies need different sorts of flowers. Combine them, and the lawns in the survey produced 50lb of nectar a day – and that’s enough to support over 2 million honeybees.
Count your flowers and report in
So our task is to work out which parts of the lawn to short cut, which to leave long, and then to put the kettle on and settle down with a cuppa and listen to the birdsong!
And one final thing to do....
Count the flowers on your lawn and find out how many bees it can support! The more flowers in your lawn, and the more types of flowers you've got, the more bees you'll be able to support.
Every Flower Counts takes palce from 23rd to 31st May 2020 so let Plantlife know your results!
From your results, Plantlife can calculate a National Nectar Index to show how lawns in Britain are helping to feed pollinators. And they'll show you how you can increase the number of flowers in your lawn!
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