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Studies in Falklands' peat lands, The importance of World Wetlands Day

Saturday, February 4th 2023 - 11:55 UTC
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The Flow Country, Europe’s largest blanket bog located found in Northern Scotland. The Flow Country, Europe’s largest blanket bog located found in Northern Scotland.

By Katy Ross (*) – The haunting calls of black-throated divers rise to join the bubbling of Curlews. Hen harriers, perhaps more enchantingly known as sky dancers glide across a landscape filled with lochs and pools, whilst far below cotton grasses bob in the wind. All this life is supported by a tiny plant and one you are probably already familiar with - Sphagnum moss.

On the 2nd February, people around the world celebrated World Wetlands Day, a time to raise awareness and appreciation for wetlands and their benefits.

Around this time of year, I always reflect on the beauty of our peat wetlands and the sphagnum mosses that inhabit them. While the wetland imagery that I conjure up may be slightly different to that seen here, the Falklands is also home to these incredible wetlands, the extent and importance of which continue to be revealed.

Yet on the global scale, our wetlands are under threat.

They are disappearing three times faster than our forests.

They are disproportionately influenced by climate change, with the species that live in them going extinct more quickly than for any other habitat. However, it is land use, and in particular, agricultural practice that is resulting in the greatest degradation of inland wetlands.

The disappearance and damage to wetlands has far-reaching consequences. Four billion people around the world are directly reliant on wetlands for their livelihoods and health. The loss of these systems will also result in the loss of a vital tool for addressing the climate crisis with peat-lands storing 30% of all terrestrial carbon and coastal wetlands removing atmospheric CO2 fifty five times faster than rainforests.

It is therefore essential that we have growing governmental support
for the protection and wise use of wetlands, as too is careful management and investment in them as a natural asset. We can call on our governments for stronger policy on wetland use and protection.

Whilst working with each other to manage farms to enhance wetlands. Even as individuals we can develop a knowledge of and connection to these places to better advocate for and protect them.

Next Thursday I hope we can all take time to appreciate wetland life by visiting a river, rockpool or bog. For if something as small as a moss can root and breathe the peat alive again, our actions have power too! (Originally published in Penguin News)

(*), Katy Ross, is a PhD Researcher studying and working on a Falklands Peat lands project as part of a SAERI team. Collaborators on the project include the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, the University of Leicester and the Natural History Museum. Her PhD supervisors include Dr Steffi Carter, Prof Chris Evans, Prof Sue Page, Dr Anne Jungblut, Dr Arnoud Boom and Dr Ross Morrison. Ms Ross is also most grateful to Falklands' sponsors Georgia Seafoods

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