This is a short video looking at the Office for National Statistics programme of Natural Capital and World Wetlands Day.
Wetlands are areas of land saturated with water up to six metres deep. Wetlands can be man-made, such as canals, or naturally formed, such as fens.
The UK has various types of inland wetland. These are broadly classified under the Countryside Survey’s measurement of fens, marshes, swamps and bogs. As you can see from this chart, current estimations show that the UK has stock of over 2.8 million hectares of wetland, or 12% of UK land cover. This compares to 40% for Grassland, 20% for arable and horticulture, 12% for woodland, built up areas and gardens at 6%, and other types of land at 10%.
The 2nd of February is “World Wetlands Day”, marking the signing of the Convention on Wetlands in the Iranian city of Ramsar, 43 years ago.
There are currently 168 countries signed up to the Ramsar Convention, with 2,170 designated Ramsar sites covering over 207 million hectares. The Ramsar organisation aim to protect wetlands worldwide, addressing concerns that wetlands are being lost due to growing human activity.
Wetlands are important to supporting our natural environment. Wetlands provide a broad range of ecosystem services; these are the benefits that are provided for use in human and economic activity. For example, Newport wetlands in South Wales support various species of birds, such as the Canada goose, and provide different types of plant, such as reed.
The ONS aims to estimate the monetary value of wetlands, amongst a number of other habitats, under its programme of “Natural Capital”. Nature is sometimes lost to create economic growth. If monetary valuations for nature are available, we are able to estimate the value of this loss. This can be used to improve the development, implementation and evaluation of policies.
By 2020, the ONS aims to have created individual accounts for eight main habitats listed under the 2012 Roadmap. The first account being developed is woodland. This will then be followed by developing accounts for openwater, wetland and floodplain, enclosed farmland, marine, urban, semi-natural grassland, mountains, moorlands and heath, and coastal margins. Currently, the ONS is also creating a top down estimate for the overall value of these eight habitats.
The wetland ecosystem is measured by basing the value of the habitat on the expected flow of the ecosystem services it provides. This involves measurement in physical and monetary terms. The physical measurement involves measuring the material amount of the service provided, for example, how many tonnes of fish are extracted from wetlands each year. The monetary measurement involves various techniques, but ideally, uses the physical data and multiplies it by the market price of the good or service.
As shown, the ONS has so far published six papers on natural capital. To view these, follow the links in our Environmental Accounts, by clicking the link in the description box.