The Importance of Urban Wetlands

Human beings are now officially an ‘urban species’, with more than 50% of world’s population now living in urban areas. However this trend towards urbanisation for our species has had catastrophic impacts for many others as they, and the habitats they depend on, have been squeezed out of the urban landscape. These impacts are particularly severely felt by wetlands. Most urban centres developed precisely because of wetlands, which provided easy access to water, rich agricultural land, and navigable access. However the extent of urban development means many have been drained and built on entirely and remaining fragments are severely degraded. As well as being disastrous for wetland wildlife this has also had severe impacts on our society, with the ecosystem services that these wetlands provided having been severely compromised.

WWT has always played a role in trying to redress that balance. London Wetland Centre was created right in the heart of one of the world’s biggest urban centres and was a major step forward in bringing wetlands back into the urban environment. So far, we have logged up to 2,399 wildlife species at WWT London Wetland Centre. With a tally of 57 species per hectare of reserve, it makes WWT London Wetland Centre one of the best wildlife watched nature reserves across the whole country. Records from WWT staff, volunteers, visiting wildlife experts, but just as importantly from members of the visiting public have contributed to this amazing “urban wildlife watch” undertaken on site – perhaps unexpectedly making it an urban mecca of collaborative citizen science at its best.

WWT are now taking this concept even further, with our ‘Working Wetlands’ approach which seeks to use the multiple benefits that these wetlands can provide as a way to bring them back into people’s homes, businesses, neighbourhoods and daily lives.