Introducing the Wetland Vision Project

The section below describes what the project is and what it hopes to achieve

This project sets out a 50-year vision for England’s freshwater wetlands. It will show where new wetlands could be created and current wetlands restored. The hope is that by turning the Vision into reality we can make space for water in our countryside, help people and wildlife adapt to a changing climate, protect our heritage and reap the many benefits that wetlands can provide. Our Vision is about describing the location, nature and extent of the wetland landscape that we need in the future, illustrating this at a national scale through maps.

The conservation, rehabilitation, and creation of new wetland ecosystems will be a vital part of any strategy for adapting to climate change. Our Vision, and the support it provides for local visions on the ground, will form the basis of a shared approach that ensures our wetlands remain a valuable component of the landscape, and through further restoration can actively contribute to a sustainable society.

This is a vision of partnerships working towards common goals for the restoration of freshwater wetlands for people. We hope it will help decision makers make the right choices for wetlands, their wildlife heritage and the people who enjoy them. Everyone has a part to play in restoring wetland landscapes to their former glory.

1. Children at pond: Andy Hay (   2.  Konic ponies at waterside: E.Bowen-Jones   3. Pair of advocets: E.Bowen-Jones  

The partners will use the results of the project to lead on the delivery of different aspects of the vision. This may be through influencing policy and the targeting of funding mechanisms, buying land for nature reserves, and establishing landscape-scale partnership projects, often working directly with landowners. We have considered a range of issues in formulating our Vision including climate change, water availability, principles of landscape ecology, development pressures and long-term targets. Much of this has been explored with others.

Outputs of the project include:

i) A series of maps, using Geographical Information Systems (GIS) to describe the potential locations of freshwater wetlands in 50-years time. We would like to share as much of this information as possible with those involved in the conservation and management of wetlands

The strength of the project lies in the close working of the partners, through which we hope it can add real value to the conservation of wetlands. We collated various datasets from across the partnership to help describe their current fragmented state, and where they may exist in the future, as well as where they once existed in the past. With this information, maps have been generated for individual types. These are areas we think are likely to be particularly suitable for the restoration and creation of different types of wetland to bolster and defend our existing resource.

There is limited information on how to use such map based data to infer where wetlands are possible. The Vision project explored various aspects of this with wetland habitat specialists and a Technical Advisory Group. In many cases the places in which habitats and species are found now is not indicative of where they would naturally occur, as wetlands have been fragmented and degraded by modern pressures and constraints. This created some challenging mapping problems and philosophical questions.

We aim to share as much project information as possible, depending on how widely available some of the data ownership conditions permit. The Vision project will also provide guidance on accessing and using local data sources which are often of more relevance to local projects and can help to refine the maps. 

ii) A Vision document to support the maps in describing our Wetland Vision for 2058

The Wetland Vision technical document describes how the maps were put together, all the issues which have been difficult to map, and where we do not know enough about how national policy will change to incorporate various impacts on our aspirations. It explains the rationale behind the project, how targets were considered and developed. It also helps explain the relationship between the natural and historic environment elements of this project. Wetlands preserve archaeological sites and evidence of past climate and landscapes, and these areas need sensitive management to ensure long-term preservation. The maintenance and creation of  wetlands will help promote this preservation. The maps and text describe our Vision and should be read together and complement each other.

1. Waterfall: C. Hume   2. Bog rosemary: Andy Hay (   3. Fen and marsh: C. Hume

iii) Material and case studies from across the partnership that help to describe future wetlands 

We collated information on some 120 local visions that are seeking to deliver wetlands, or which identify areas in which wetlands may be possible. Local Visions are of critical importance since it is through local action that this vision will be realised. By sharing information on them, and summarising best practice, we hope that more such visions can be developed. Those below are just a few illustrative examples of the local visions now starting to deliver real wetland gain that benefits people, wildlife and the historic environment.

1. Great Fen Project   2&3. The OnTrent Initiative   4. The RSPBs Vision for the Fens   5. The Little Ouse Headwaters Project

iv) Engaging with others - incorporating views into the projects development 

We recognised early on that there is a wealth of knowledge about, and interest in wetlands. To acknowledge this, and to take into account a range of views about future wetlands, we launched a stakeholder engagement process in February 2006. The main outputs of this can be downloaded from here.

We also involved wetland specialists through the formation of our Technical Advisory Group which has been instrumental in ensuring a scientifically robust approach. We hope that this Vision can therefore be seen as more than just the views of the partnership but of our stakeholders too, though attendance at a workshop does not necessarly infer support for the projects outputs. We are very grateful to all those who have contributed their time. The official stakeholder engagement process initiated to help guide the development of the project has closed, though project partners will continue to welcome views.

v) The launch of project material

The project was launched in July 2008 and current outputs are available through this website. Some of the technical material are very detailed, so supporting summaries and publication material are also available. Revisit the news section of this site for further information as it becomes available, or otherwise get in touch via the contacts page.

Historic landscape: Richard Brunning