Unlock the Six Secrets of Wetlands

John McCullough urges you to take a second look at this threatened resource

A two year rural wetlands awareness programme supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and called ‘Wetlands for Townlands’ has been launched by the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) at Castle Espie.

This on-going programme hopes to target counties Armagh, Tyrone and Fermanagh and its emphasis is on small rural undesignated wetland sites. John McCullough, the officer in charge of the project, is required to provide outreach throughout these areas through interactive workshops, talks, community art, practical assistance and guidance on small wetland management.

The theme of undesignated wetlands was felt to be of significant importance to the Trust in Northern Ireland. These sites are often overlooked by various agencies and are therefore diminishing all over our island.

Like many of the designated sites they are under threat from pollution, dumping, drainage and infill for development. But most of all they are threatened by a wide-ranging lack of knowledge about their great wealth, beauty and rarity.

Some figures sourced from ENFO make worrying reading, for example over 90% of midland raised bog has been lost or modified. Arterial drainage has affected 37 river catchment areas and turloughs. 10 major estuaries have been affected by refuse tipping and infill. And 26% of rivers and 20 major lakes are polluted by agricultural, industrial and domestic effluent.

Sadly, these are well known and documented sites, a fact which prompts us to enquire as to the extent and speed of the unknown damage also taking place in smaller unmonitored wetlands. Indeed most of those working within the environmental sector are only too aware of this ‘death by a thousand cuts’, as a larger and more intricate network of small vital habitats, cultural heritage and resources is lost piece by piece.

With this in mind, the core message of the project has been encapsulated in the WWT learning programme ‘The Six Secrets of Wetlands’. A format which helps to clarify these problems, this approach hopes to highlight the six secrets in an informative yet accessible way.

The key themes, which establish wetlands as water storage devices, water purifiers, producers of food and many other materials, flood barriers, homes and places to unwind and enjoy yourself, provokes the public to see bogs, ponds and marshes as something other than wet and useless places at the periphery of where they live.

The outreach is aimed at all ages and from any sector of the community who would like to know or do more to protect, restore or create these types of wetland. For more information or to get involved please contact John McCullough on 02891 874146 or via email at john.mccullough@wwt.org.uk.