The restoration of the fens

Did you know that the National Trust is the second biggest landowner after the Ministry of Defense? I didn’t. Why would an incomeless environmentalist like me decide to become a member of the National Trust?

I did not realise that the National Trust does a large amount of work to protect the environment, it turns out it’s not all about posh manor houses. When the National Trust staff kindly told us about the ambitious work happening at Wicken Fen, it was enough to stir me to part with the little money I have to support what they are doing.

Fens are wetlands that are fed by mineral rich waters. Wicken Fen is the oldest National Trust reserve in the country and one of the most important wetland habitats in Europe. Walking through the landscape of the fens the rivers are a lot higher than the surrounding land. Weird. You might think that perhaps they were built up that way? It turns out to be the other way around. When the fen ditches were dug and the land drained, the layers of organic matter that had been laid down over thousands of years were exposed to oxygen. With the oxygen the carbon started to break down and release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Another surprise. It turns out that draining wetland is very bad for our climate as well as removing habitat. But what the National Trust have planned gave me a lift of excitement.

Most organisations and politicians seem to think a few years ahead, maybe a decade ahead, but the National Trust have a hundred year plan to restore fenland around Wicken Fen. By gradually buying up the land, they will restoreĀ  this vital habitat, lock up carbon and protect it for the benefit of all.

 

 

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