How can management work and projects, such as the Anglesey and Llyn Fens LIFE Project, inform future wetland restoration work

Thought of sharing this piece of an essay that I had done as a part of my curriculum in Bangor University. I think a lot can be learned from the ‘LIFE’ projects – the financial instrument of the EU for nature conservation and mitigation  projects pertaining to climate change.

The projects like Anglesey and Llyn Fens LIFE Project work on the principle of ecosystem approach (Angleseyandllynfens.com, 2015) and have been fairly successful. Wetland restoration presents a good example of making use of an ecosystem approach orienting goals for wetland conservation and sustainable development in alignment with the principles stated by the Convention of Biological Diversity (Cris et al., 2011). An ecosystem approach towards an ecosystem management can be broken down into five key steps which ensure that future management and restoration of wetlands occur with least possible hindrances (Shepherd, 2008):

Engagement of Stakeholders
There are benefits of bringing aboard people from different interest groups. By acquiring agreement on wetland restoration in a manner that satisfies stakeholders at an initial phase has helped avoid potential disputes. For a conflict-free management of wetlands, it is essential that people from different sectors – land management, from conservation organisations, from businesses involved with the wetlands, and from local administrative authorities – come together for cross-sector partnerships. A good example is that of peatlands in Caithness and Sutherland, where a huge controversy came to surface because of the forestry planting on the bogs; the matter was resolved by agreeing on a strategy devised with the help and cooperation from people involved in agriculture, wildlife, sporting interests and forestry. What makes public participation or engaging stakeholders important is that it ensures that the benefits and services along with the cost of damages are understood.

Understanding the function, structure and management
Biodiversity of a wetland acts as an important measure of its health as an ecosystem, and also supports the services that wetlands provide. A lot of research projects have been extending their works and findings to help construct the corroboration base for the benefits obtained from the wetlands, e.g., carbon sequestration and water quality. Restoration projects have been able to improve visitor experience by – delivering finer access and interpretation, organising programmes and events involving communities such as guided walks, and also via outreach programmes to schools.

Economic Issues
Biodiversity restoration, which is a part of the wetland restoration, has been successful in drawing attention and resources to areas which are remote and economically underprivileged. The restoration projects under LIFE attract funding from the EU. Funding under Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has been proven to be crucial in fortifying sustainable land management while being able to maintain livelihoods in remote and rural areas. Also, public investment through various NGOs has supported wetland restoration. A recovering and well managed wetland also has the potential to tap into larger economic resources with the aid of tourism.

Management that is attuned to space
For an effective restoration and management, the project should have an adaptive management over space. While some sites tend to be small and localised (e.g. Langland Moss), there are others that span extensively (e.g. Flow Country). A successful project needs to bring together partnerships of private and public sectors as and when required.
Peatlands are being studied and explored for their potential roles in food alleviation and water-quality regulation under future climate conditions with heavy rainfall, in fens as well as blanket bogs, thus encouraging projects to operate across the catchments in order to come up with best solutions.

Management attuned to time
Often projects have to be carried out under certain scenarios where the managers have an incomplete or imperfect knowledge, with uncertainties around (Andrade, 2011). These uncertainties may result from the way a wetland would respond to restoration methods, or the scale of impact caused by certain land management techniques as well as uncertainties regarding future climatic conditions. To overcome these hurdles, restoration projects have been collaborating with local contractors, and strive to gain local knowledge about the site and learn over time. This includes development of new machinery, if required, for re-profiling ditches, examining the ideal or best design of dams, etc. Working in close collaboration with local communities and land managers in order to resolve challenges while endorsing long-term resilience is essential for wetland restoration and management projects. An adaptive management over time ensures that the restoration techniques will be able to evolve with time and thus, shall be able to contribute in future restoration works as well. The MoorLIFE project is an example where intricate and sophisticated techniques were used for propagating Sphagnum moss (Moorsforthefuture.org.uk, 2012).

Here is a table of other wetland restoration projects, across the UK, that have worked, or have been working, through a similar approach as that of Anglesey and Llyn Fens LIFE+

life
Table : Various Wetland Restoration Projects across the UK

Summarisation
Wetland restoration and management projects such as the Anglesey and Llyn Fens LIFE+ Project follow integrated management of all the resources available – terrestrial, aquatic and other resources- in a manner that endorses conservation and sustainable use of the available resources in an equitable way (Cris et al., 2011). The restoration and management of wetlands under such a project promotes planning, discussions and measured actions. The process involved in these projects – of bringing a wetland, its inhabitants, the challenges and disputes along with the opportunities accompanied within, into focus – allows the project to become future-proof and address most of the potential challenges that may be encountered.

Over the last few years there has been a significant increase in the number of wetland restoration and management projects and the reasons have been attributed to advancement in techniques and methods for approaching and tackling the damages. More importantly, the wetland managers have now made a considerable progress in the field of managing wetland ecosystems in a manner that engages stakeholders and attracts partnerships at a scale that can deliver results. What makes restoring a wetland a successful attempt is making sure that economic and social aspects are addressed, so that the services and benefits of wetlands as an ecosystem are recognised and valued. The experience and knowledge gained by the wetland restoration projects, of the likes of Anglesey and Llyn Fens LIFE+ Project, if documented well and shared globally, can create awareness as well as prompt management actions that many of the wetlands all over the world deserve to have.

You can explore the official website for the LIFE programme at: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/life/

Below are the references to the sources I have used

Continue reading →

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Bangor Science Day

March 14th 2015. As few of us, myself, Sean and Gregg, couldn’t go to Florida Everglades, we made use of the time preparing for Bangor Science Day. The Science day is a part of the Bangor Science festival and British Science Week. Each year students from different schools of science, in Bangor University, showcase the fascinating aspect of their field of study to the general public, children in particular, who are invited to participate in this event. The objective of this event is to promote science at a ground level.

We decided to present some characteristic, wetland related stuff that would allow people, and their children, grasp the basic idea about wetlands. We kept our display simple and explained wetlands by following means:

  • Posters

Three of us made posters for three different wetlands – bog, marsh and fen. The posters explained what these wetlands are and why are they important to us.

  • Constructed Wetland Model

A constructed wetland model was put on display. The model showed how certain constructed wetlands can provide an important ecosystem service – water filtration and purification. It was made using a small plastic fish tank, a plastic tube, gravels and some wetland plants.

  • Soil Cores

Soil cores from the above mentioned wetlands were put on display. A week before the Science Day we went to the three wetlands and collected soil cores in clear PVC tubes.

  • Typical and some Carnivorous Plants of Wetlands

Plants commonly found in fens, marshes and other wetlands along with few carnivorous plants were put on display. The plants were sourced from Treborth Botanic garden, Menai Strait.

  • Soil Samples Under the Microscope

Soil samples from various wetlands that we had visited during our field trips were there to be viewed under the microscopes. This was done to show how soils differed from a wetland to another.

  • Engaging Children

Children were given pictures to colour, which had animals and birds from various wetland habitats. A few puzzle games, with wetland in theme, were also kept for children.

We saw a lot of people coming in for the Science Day and interacted with as many. It was a good and fun experience explaining about wetlands to people, especially children who seemed very curious about microscopes and carnivorous plants.

The Migneint

February 5th, 2015. The weather was good with sunshine, but the place of our visit did not allow us to bask in that. We went to Migneint, finally, the bog site which we had missed on our first field trip. Well, this time too it seemed, for a little while, that we might not be able to visit the site as snow on the road had been a real obstruction for the minibus’ tyres. Our lecturer and field leader, Dr Christian Dunn, didn’t lose hope – took the other route and did get us to the place. Migneint at this time was all covered by snow and looked pretty scenic.

Migneint bog is one of the largest blanket bogs in UK, and is known for its peculiar peat erosion complex. It has been listed under Special Areas of Conservation (SAC). Though, the cause of erosion has been attributed to both natural origin and anthropogenic sources in the past, it yet remains a challenge to understand the processes that had led to peat erosion. However, it is pretty evident from the ditches that the site had been heavily managed in the 70s. Efforts are being made to overcome the damage that the bog has suffered in the past – blocking of ditches for example.

Sampling was done for the site by each of us taking five samples. pH and peat depth were also recorded.

The Migneint

The Fifth, Which I Missed – Llyn Padrig

November 13th, 2014. Caught cold, had fever, missed it! Well, I had been really unlucky this time around. From what my friends from the course have told me, it was one of the best sites. Llyn Padrig is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and is in the South-West Anglesey, Wales. The site is known for being a good example of a wetland showing three phases of succession. There exists a mesotrophic wetland, and plant communities here have developed in a former lake basin in which an area of open water is still present. Since the wetland has formed over a lake, it has created a floating fen. The ground of these fens, since afloat over a lake, feel shaky and unstable. Llyn Padrig is maintained by Bodorgan Estates and mainly for the wild-fowl shooting, snipes in particular. This is believed to have prevented habitat loss on the site as otherwise the land would have been drained and converted to an agricultural land.

The aim of the visit was to see the successional stages – scrub land at the lake edge, a floating fen or and the terrestrial peatland. Five samples were collected from each of the sites.

 

I am thankful to Gregg and Helen who collected samples for me as well.

The Fourth – Maelltraeth Marsh

November 5th, 2014. After two field trips to peatlands, this time our field-course had a marsh land for us. A marsh is a frequently, or continually inundated wetland characterised by emergent herbaceous vegetation adapted to saturated soil conditions.

It was a good day with clear skies, something that hadn’t been there during our previous field trips. We reached Malltraeth Marsh around 11:00 am. Malltraeth Marsh is a site under the Royal Society for Protection of Birds (RSPB), Wales. We met the RSPB manager of the site and were given an introduction of the site. The 273 ha of this area sustains reedbeds, marshes, grasslands and small lakes/pools. RSPB manages this site to make it a habitat fit for bitterns. Bitterns prefer habitats that are rich in reedbeds. The marsh is also popular for lapwings and for seeing wintering wildfowls. The site, in the past has had a history of coal mining. As a consequence of the mining, several depressions were formed which later developed into shallow pools. A lot of effort has been put to bring back the bittern population, e.g., ditches are created with fish in them, but there haven’t been breeding pairs on the site. Malltraeth marsh also endeavours to raise lapwings in breeding numbers and prevent them from being prayed by foxes; electric fences have been set up to check foxes. Buttercup, Ranunculus Sp. and Soft Rush, Juncus effusus along with Cattail, Typha were also noticed.

We visited two sites at the reserve; first one showed the history of mining and had pools of water and the second site was basically dominated by reedbeds. The two sites were visibly different with one being quite wet while the other being drier and pasture-land like, with evidence of pony grazing. We continued with our sampling drill – collected five samples from each of the sites, and also took water sample from the second site.

The Third – Field trip to Cors Fochno

October 28th 2014. This week we, the wetlands MSc people, went to a raised bog – Cors Fochno. The bog is near Aberystwyth, in West Wales and the site is managed by Natural Resources Wales (NRW). It is also a part of the Dyfi National Nature Reserve. We reached the site around 11:20 am and met Mike Bailey, from NRW.

Mike gave us a brief introduction of Cors Fochno, how it developed into a bog from deposition of peat formed by reed swamps and later progressed to become a raised bog with overlying Sphagnum peat. The site is being managed by NRW in order to prevent the water running off the site and have it stored inside, at the centre of the site; this is being done by blocking the ditches that are at the edge of the bog. A major hindrance for the management of this raised bog is drainage, farmers living in surrounding areas haven’t ceased draining the bog. NRW is working towards returning the bog to its better conditions, which is presently affected by pasture works.

Cors Fochno has some rare species of sphagnum mosses growing. Heather was common and few sundews were also noticed.

We went to two locations at the site, the first one was near the centre of the bog, without any impact of grazing, or pasture work, while the second location was away from the central area, towards the periphery that was formerly accessible to farmers who had used the land for grazing. The difference between the two locations was visible, the first one had wetter soil with more sphagnum. The purpose of this visit was to study the difference in characteristics after re-wetting, for restoration purpose, had been done.

Fieldwork involved sampling of soils. Each of us collected five samples a location as well as took water samples from the locations. Peat depth and pH were measured on site, followed by vegetation diversity survey. Peat depth was ~ 7m.

Click on the photos below to view in a gallery

 

Field Trip to Cors Erddreiniog and Marchlyn Mawr

October 20th, 2014.  Reading about a place is one thing and visiting it another. After having attended lectures about Wetlands, it was time to delve in.

The ability of an environmental system to store carbon has been attracting interest and attention from the researchers worldwide. Peatlands, which happen to be one of the dominant wetlands in the U.K., belong to this class of ecosystems. It is, thus, natural that environmentalists and conservationists would want to study them in depth.

Peatlands have been broadly classified into two subgroups – Fens and Bogs. The basic differences between the two are as follows:
Fens – Nutrient rich, around neutral pH, receive water percolating through surrounding soils
Bogs – Nutrient poor, relatively acidic, receive water from rainfall

The field-trip was organized with the objective of inculcating some essential field-skills required for collecting soil samples, and being able to identify the characteristics that differentiate a fen and a bog. Soil samples from each site were collected and stored.

The Fens
Along with Dr. Chris Freeman and Dr. Christian Dunn, we first set out for the fens. The site was Cors Erddreiniog (Anglesey), located between Bryn Teg and Capel Coch in eastern Anglesey. Common reed, great fen sedge, flowered rush and black bog rush characterize the large area of fen in the site.
The wetland has been recognized for its importance to the wildlife it plays host to, and hence has been designated as area of interest by multiple organizations:
A wetland of international importance – (Anglesey and Llyn Fens RAMSAR)
A Site of Special Scientific Interest – (Cors Erddreiniog SSSI)
A Special Area of Conservation – (Anglesey Fens SAC)

Within Cors Erddreiniog two sites were selected to collect samples, 5 from each. The second of th etwo sites was dominated by phragmites. The soil samples were collected by digging down to  a sufficient depth of 10-15 cm. Conductivity and pH were then measured by preparing a soil slurry, and drainage rods were used to measure the peat depth.

pH was found to be 4.2
Peat depth was found to be 30 cm

The Bog
The road to the Migneint, the bog site, had been closed and consequently we could not visit the bog there. Well, our instructors Dr. Freeman and Dr. Dunn did not lose hope and arranged for a visit to another bog near Marchlyn Mawr.
The change in vegetation, from what we saw in the fens, could be easily noticed here. The site was more of sphagnum dominated.
Sampling was done the same way as it has been done in the fens. Collecting soil samples at this site wasn’t easy though, the hand would go numb because of the almost-freezing-temperature below the surface.

pH was found to be 5.2