Wetlands are an important part of the Inner Forth Landscape, with its mudlfats, saltmarsh, lagoons and mosses providing vital food and shelter for many thousands of birds every winter. As 2nd February is World Wetlands Day, IFLI is joining people from all over the world to celebrate and recognise the importance of wetlands to local, national and global communities.
Flock of redwing in flight at Kinneil Lagoons. Photo: David Palmar
The Ramsar Convention
The importance of the Inner Forth's wetlands is reflected in the fact that the landscape is a Ramsar site, part of the wider Firth of Forth. This means it is one of over 2000 sites worldwide which are recognised as being of global importance, as a result of the Ramsar Convention, which was signed in the Iranian city of the same name in 1971. This convention aims to work towards, and promote, wise and sustainable use of wetlands worldwide, and works with 160 different nations.
A big part of the Convention's outreach work is World Wetlands Day, held 2 February every year since 1997. Each Day also has a unique theme, with this year being "Wetlands for Disaster Risk Reduction".
Why are Wetlands important?
Wetlands serve a variety of important functions around the world. They can act as natural barriers to prevent flooding, storing huge amounts of overflow water that could otherwise cause even more severe damage. In many places with more extreme weather than the UK wetlands can also act as reservoirs. When these areas enter the dry season the gradual release of this stored water from the wetlands can then reduce the impact of drought. It's estimated that one acre of wetland can store over 1 million gallons of floodwater.
As well as this peat wetlands, like our own Wester Moss, can store huge amounts of carbon, holding a third of the world's total carbon despite taking up only three per cent of the planet's surface area. Wetlands also provide vital habitat for a huge number of species. More than one third of world's endangered species rely either directly or indirectly on wetlands for their survival.
And this before we even consider the cultural or historical importance of wetland sites to societies around the world. Ramsar research indicates that a third of their designated sites have historical, cultural, religious or mythical significance to the communities who live next to them.
However, despite their importance wetlands are often in danger of being converted or destroyed for other uses, with more than 60% of the world's wetlands being destroyed since the start of the 20th century.
Inner Forth Wetlands
Fortunately around the Inner Forth we don't have the issue of such extreme and dangerous weather, although we have lost many of our saltmarshes and mudflats through land reclamation, and some may still be threatened in the future. But our wetlands play an important role in the landscape - not only in the flood prevention, but also in providing habitats for literally thousands of different species. That's why, throughout the four years of the IFLI partnership, we have worked on several projects focussing on important wetlands areas across the Inner Forth.
Black Devon Wetlands. Photo: Robert Trevis-Smith
These include at Black Devon, where the RSPB has improved not only visitor access but the habitat conditions for winter wading birds; and also at Cambus Pools where we have worked with the Scottish Wildlife Trust. Other important wetlands sites of along the Inner Forth include Kinneil Lagoons next to Bo'ness, Torry Bay in Fife, and the saltmarsh and mudflats between RSPB Skinflats and Bothkennar Pools, behind Skinflats village.
So why not take World Wetlands Day as a chance to explore these important parts of the Inner Forth. Areas like Black Devon are still populated with wintering birds like shelduck and curlew, which make for an incredible site as you walk along the shoreline. If you do head out we always love to see pictures or hear your experiences on our Facebook and Twitter pages.
More information on wetlands:
Wetlands: a natural safeguard against disasters
The importance of wetlands
10 wetland facts to knock your wellies off
Firth of Forth Ramsar Site