With over 10,000 signatures and Sacha now in Denmark we’re only two weeks away from the petition handover. After flying over the channel, one of the most challenging legs of the entire expedition, Sacha will fly into London to hand the petition over in style to politicians in Westminster.
We talked in a previous article about why action is needed to protect Bewick’s swans, and how we will use the signatures gathered in support of our petition to leverage policy which will protect the swans. A key part of this will be encouraging MPs to protect crucial wetland habitat here in the UK. As we near the closing date for the petition, we wanted to elaborate on our vision for the future of wetlands, and why protecting the wetlands that Bewick’s rely on will benefit more than just the swans.
The big picture
One driving force behind Flight of the Swans is that any insight into the swans’ decline would also help other wildlife across Northern Europe. Bewick’s swans are just one of thousands of species that rely on wetlands and any are potentially affected by the same issues.
For example, Bewick’s swans are one of many species of migratory birds that breed in the Arctic and overwinter in temperate regions that are currently undergoing population declines, including red-breasted geese, Greenland white-fronted geese and taiga bean geese. And these are just the species which have most in common with Bewick’s.
Sacha’s journey is taking her from the wetland wilderness of the tundra to the developed landscapes of Western Europe where wildlife has to squeeze in between farmland and towns. But even though wetlands cover a much smaller area, they support a disproportionate number of animals, and in the scarceness of winter it’s clear to see the sheer scale and extent of wildlife which relies on these dwindling lifelines.
In the UK, for example, wetlands make up only 3% of the land mass but are home to around 10% of all our species. Studies show that nearly two thirds of our freshwater and wetland species are now declining. Increasingly frequent reports of wildlife declines, floods, and polluted waterways are reminders that many wetlands are at breaking point.
Wetlands and people
Conserving Bewick’s habitats also benefits us: wetlands are essential for life on earth. They provide water for drinking and agriculture, help protect us from drought and flooding, clean our waste, store carbon and provide food. By protecting and restoring the wetlands which the Bewick’s call home, we’re working toward a more sustainable future for both people and wildlife.
As we damage and destroy wetlands we reduce their ability to sustain populations of plants, animals, and the many benefits they bring to people. If we had to meet the costs ourselves for the work our current wetlands provide in cleaning our water and buffering us from floods, economists estimate the opportunity cost in the UK would be at least £6.7bn.
We spend increasingly eye-watering amounts of tax-payers’ money on concrete reservoirs and flood defences. But saving, restoring, creating and better managing wetlands can help resolve many of the challenges of a changing climate and increasing human demands – and can do this in a sustainable and cost-effective way.
The levee’s gonna break
We have the knowledge and ability to conserve, restore and create wetland homes for wildlife, and deliver healthy ecosystems that work for people too.
By the success of protected areas all across Europe, it’s clear to see that solutions are not only necessary, but within sight. But we’re still seeing widespread decline in wetlands and the species that rely on them.
It’s up to us to continue to push for protected wetlands, to provide support for wildlife where protections are insufficient, and to continue the research vital to stronger legal protections.
The first step towards this vision is letting the government know that action is needed, so don’t forget to sign our petition if you haven’t already.
In feeding back on her bird’s eye view of the myriad of ecosystems all along the swans’ flyway, the resounding message from Sacha is that there is so much at stake here.
Donate today to help us protect swans and the wetlands they rely on, and you’ll help secure a future for many other species which we are at risk of losing, as well as bringing huge benefits for people.