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Last modified: 30 January 2012
Image: Norrie Russell
This Thursday (2 February) is World Wetlands Day, an international celebration and an opportunity to enjoy some of these special sites right on your doorstep.
Wetlands are an integral part of the English countryside, helping to reduce flooding, supporting rare wildlife and providing employment and leisure activities.
At this time of year they are important feeding grounds for ducks, geese and wading birds which stop off here before heading back to their breeding grounds in the spring.
Sophie Flax, RSPB wetland conservation officer in the south east, said: “Our wetlands are a valuable part of the landscape. Wetland habitats provide many benefits for people as well as wildlife, including helping to reduce flooding pressure, recharging underground water supplies and filtering out pollution.
“World Wetlands Day is a celebration of the importance of wetlands across the world and how vital it is that we conserve and protect them.”
Since it was first celebrated in 1997, World Wetlands Day has been supported by government agencies, non-government organisations including the RSPB, and community groups to raise awareness of the value and benefits of wetlands, and to promote the conservation and enjoyment of them.
Wetland habitats are very diverse, and include fens, swamps, marshes, reedbeds, ditches, streams and rivers.
Most of the major areas of wetland in the south east are along the river valleys and on the coastal marshes.
In Kent, some important wetland sites include: Stodmarsh; Ham Fen; River Beult; River Medway; River Stour; North Kent Marshes; Romney Marsh; and the RSPB’s Dungeness nature reserve, which is a haven for breeding and wintering water birds, and an important stopover for migrant species.
However, over the last 300 years we have lost huge areas of wetlands, much of it through drainage and the embankment of rivers, and their survival is now threatened more than ever by climate change.
The RSPB is among conservation organisations working to create and maintain wetlands as habitats for wildlife to thrive in, and as places for people to enjoy.