Today, 2nd February, is World Wetlands Day, the aim of which is to draw attention to, and stem the loss and degradation of, the world’s wetlands. An extremely worthy cause.
I imagine, to most people, the word wetlands conjures up fabulous, bird-filled marshes, mangrove swamps, river deltas and estuaries. Quite right too. These are vitally important habitats which, like everywhere else, are coming under increasing pressure from the dogma of perpetual economic growth. But I suspect some important wetlands are easily overlooked—in particular, a type of wetland very close to my heart: Britain’s magnificent moors.
Our moorlands are—or should be—important wetland habitats. Their blanket bogs are natural sponges, soaking up the rainwater from our hills and releasing it slowly into our river systems. You can think of them as natural flood regulators. Unfortunately, many of our surviving moorlands have been artificially drained, primarily to provide better conditions for grouse-shooting. Furthermore, annual heather-burning to provide grouse with younger shoots to eat can damage the underlying peat, leading to erosion and faster run-off of water. When my home town of Hebden Bridge was flooded twice in the summer of 2012, many locals pointed the finger of blame at the grouse-shooting industry.
When I bumped into the local gamekeeper on my local Moor a couple of years back, I suggested that the Moor could do with a few more wildlife-friendly bogs. He said he agreed—although I suspect we might have disagreed as to the extent of these bogs.
Flood the lot, I say.