World Wildlife Day 2023

Our rivers support a wonderful variety of wildlife, deserving of celebration and protection. For world wildlife day we are delving into the overlap between the needs of wildlife and humans and how protecting one does not need to come at the cost of the other.

Matthew Woodard


To celebrate World Wildlife Day, we are looking at the overlap between wildlife and people and how what benefits one often benefits the other. There is often the misconception that prioritising wildlife comes at the expense of human needs, but many solutions to prominent environmental issues can suit both parties. From nature-based solutions to access to green spaces, we are looking at link between healthy ecosystems and climate resilience.

Re-wiggling rivers

Over time, many of our rivers have been straightened. Some people believe that this can reduce the risk of flooding. However, in many cases, this can actually lead to an increase in flood risk further downstream, and to make matters worse, the resulting faster flow of water speeds up erosion. We are now seeing a push to un-straighten or “re-wiggle” our rivers by putting meanders back into them. This is a fantastic example of conservation work that benefits both people and wildlife.

A meandering river will flood its banks periodically. This creates a marshy habitat which is perfect for an array of species, particularly birds. A meandering river has a greater level of habitat diversity; slow-flowing stretches combined or fast-flowing bends, shallow spots or deeper channels. This allows biodiversity to flourish. Adding bends back to rivers is therefore hugely beneficial for our wildlife.

From a human perspective, re-wiggling rivers could alleviate a number of problems. Meandering rivers flow more slowly. This means that, in a flood event, water arriving downstream will do so in a more measured way. This reduces the chance of destructive flash floods.

Nature-based solutions

We often talk about the benefits of nature-based solutions (NBS) on climate resilience through drought and flood protection, but they also come with positive impacts for our wildlife. For example, the various forms of sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) often involve habitat creation. Rain gardens, green roofs, and replacing paved areas with planted ones, not only provide the intended drought and flood protection, but also create pockets of nature within urban areas.

Certain habitats are created as a form of NBS, such as woodlands and wetlands. Both of these habitats provide benefits to local communities in the form of flood mitigation, drought resilience and recreation. On top of that, they also provide valuable habitats for wildlife.

Access to green and blue spaces

An ever-growing body of research is showing the positive impact of having access to and spending time in blue and green spaces on our mental health. Studies have found that time spent around river and canals improves mental wellbeing and interestingly these benefits can be long lasting. In fact, a growing number of doctors are starting to provide nature-based prescriptions, in which traditional treatment is combined with time spent outdoors.

This comes with an obvious benefit to wildlife. The creation and protection of wild, outdoor areas also means the conservation of a myriad of vital habitats. Healthy rivers, woodlands, city parks with a mixture of trees, lakes, and fields, all support contain a variety of ecosystems, supporting a plethora of organisms.


Humans are a part of nature—not separate from it. It is important that we recognise the mutual benefits that can be found in climate solutions. Protecting the planet and communities is not at odds with protecting our wildlife, the opposite is in fact true. By utilising nature and its processes, we can cherish and celebrate our wonderful wildlife, whilst creating more climate resilient infrastructure, and even improving our mental health.

Photo credit: Steve Woodard (Instagram:

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