Column: Our world important wetlands

Wetlands come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, from wet farmland grasslands, small freshwater pools and ponds, rivers and burns, to vast peatland bogs and flood plains.

Mar Lodge Estate

They all support a diverse range of wildlife including plants, insects, birds, fish and mammals.

They are also hugely important to us as people. During this pandemic, many of us have reconnected with our natural environment and have enjoyed forgotten simple pleasures such as a walk along the river.

Many children (and lots of adults too) will have at some point enjoyed a pond-dipping activity and marvelled at the array of beasties one scoop with a net can reveal, but wetlands play a much more important role in our communities.

Floodplains and uplands act like sponges; slowing down water flow to protect communities at risk from flooding further downstream.

Our drinking water is cleaned of all sorts of harmful metals and particles as it filtered through wet grassland on farmland and marshes.

Peatlands and marshlands play a huge role in the worldwide strategy to combat climate change by acting as huge carbon sinks.

Sadly across the world, we have lost many wetland habitats to various human developmental activities.

Floodplains have been drained as human populations grow and develop, but here in the Cairngorms National Park we have organisations working together to protect, enhance and restore our wetland habitats; from small scale projects on farmlands to benefit breeding waders, to landscape scale restoration projects.

Insh Marshes is one of the best wetland sites in Europe, this RSPB reserve is focused on protecting and enhancing the biodiversity and functionality of this important wetland habitat.

It is one of the best sites in the UK for breeding waders with around 500 pairs at the last count, not to mention rare plants and insects.

The long term management has a bold vision and work is progressing to improve the reserve’s function as a floodplain.

For the latest news of this landscape scale project visit the website, www.cairngormsconnect.org.uk/projects/insh

On a smaller scale, the Strathspey Wetlands and Waders Initiative works with farmers in Strathspey and Glenlivet.

The project identifies areas that could be improved as wetland areas to benefit breeding lapwing and curlew; managing the land and creating small wetland scrapes or ponds with a good muddy edge that provide vital feeding areas for wader chicks.

Throughout our woodlands you can find small natural ponds that are full of life and an important wetland feature. A home for many invertebrates such as the scarce northern damselfly and white faced darter, but also act as a water source for deer, pine martens and a bathing spot for birds.

On February 2 World Wetlands Day is being celebrated, the aim of the day is to raise global awareness about the vital role of wetlands for people and planet.

Why not take a moment to celebrate wetlands close to your home, breath in the cold winter air and empty your mind from the daily lockdown routine.

If you find yourself near any burn, pool or wet muddy area imagine the many functions that small area plays: a habitat for many invertebrates, a water filtering system and a flood management tool.