Wetlands act as nature’s sponge, holding water and letting it filter through the ground. Healthy wetlands support a huge variety of different wildlife, like plants, frogs, fish, birds and mammals – in fact 40% of freshwater species rely on these wet habitats. Wetlands also support us, our food production and water availability, and are critical allies in helping us manage water, whether we have too little (droughts) or too much (floods).
Yet we continue to lose wetlands at 3 times the rate of forests. Since 1700, 90% of our global wetland habitats have been degraded. Across the Rivers Trust movement we have been working hard to preserve and maintain healthy wetlands and build new ones to address some of the pressures on the freshwater environment in a localised, nature friendly way. This has resulted in 619 hectares of wetland being created or restored in 2022-2023.
Last month, South East Rivers Trust saw the completion of Chamber Mead Wetlands. This £1milllion project, which covers 2,000m2, now protects 200 metres of the Hogsmill river, one of only 200 chalk streams in the world. It also brings benefits to another 5km of river downstream.
The Hogsmill river is badly affected by urban road runoff, raw sewage discharges from the Epsom Storm Tanks and misconnected plumbing that sends drain water directly into the river. By diverting a nearby stream through a sediment trap and two wetlands, with filtered water then reconnected to the Hogsmill downstream, the hope is to see a real improvement of the water quality, enhancing and creating new freshwater habitats and giving a boost to local nature.
These new wetlands are part of our wider Replenish programme in partnership with businesses, local authorities and local communities to restore and create wetlands, silt traps and encourage more investment into water sensitive farming initiatives. In 2023/2024 we expect interventions such as these to replenish an estimated 5,229,404 m3 per year, helping us to build our resilience to the extremes of our changing climate and strengthen our positive impact on freshwater ecosystems.
Learn more in South East Rivers Trust's Chamber Mead announcement.