By Ian Barker – Ecologist at the New Forest National Park Authority
2021 sees the 50th anniversary of World Wetlands Day and its theme this year ‘Wetlands and Water’ is particularly relevant to the New Forest.
The fragile and pristine wetlands of the Forest, with its high-quality waterscape and biodiversity value, is underpinned by two important factors: traditional grazing management and a diverse range of running and standing waters which are free from agricultural and urban pollution.
The freshwater habitats in the New Forest are extremely important. With 75% of all lowland bog and valley mire sites in NW Europe, hundreds of temporary ponds full of rarities, and a network of small streams of extremely high quality which are unmatched by any lowland in the UK.
The designation of large areas of the New Forest as Wetlands of International Importance (‘Ramsar Site’) was based on their importance for plants and animals as well as their wider benefits for us all such as carbon storage and role in absorbing rainfall and slowing flooding. With the current climate and nature emergencies, these are even more relevant today.
The New Forest Catchment Partnership, hosted jointly by the New Forest National Park Authority and Freshwater Habitats Trust, is working alongside organisations, communities and businesses to protect, manage and enhance the freshwater habitats and the species they support in and around the New Forest. Some of the achievements of the partnership in 2020 can be reviewed here: New Forest Catchment Partnership (freshwaterhabitats.org.uk) and more information about the partnership here: New Forest Catchment Partnership – Freshwater Habitats TrustFreshwater Habitats Trust
As part of the HLS scheme, we are working with partners to restore New Forest wetlands to improve the condition of these internationally-important habitats.
Since 2010 the scheme has delivered dozens of projects across the New Forest, totalling 20km of restoration to watercourses and approximately 5000 hectares of SSSI wetland habitats being improved and protected.
Everyone can make a contribution to help conserve the Forest’s wetlands. The New Forest Water Code provides guidance on how Forest users can be water friendly FHT_New-Forest-leaflet_Final-low-res-2.pdf (freshwaterhabitats.org.uk).
Residents and businesses can also help by following these ideas: How you can help – New Forest National Park Authority (newforestnpa.gov.uk) and avoiding blockages which result in pollution via these handy tips: How to prevent blockages (southernwater.co.uk)
Photo: James West