Welney wildlife at risk from drought

FENLAND’S wildlife could suffer its worst summer for more than 30 years due to a lack of rainfall, nature experts have warned.

Welney Wetland Centre is one of those that could be worst affected by the drought because there has not been enough rainfall to flood grassland habitats.

“All creatures need water to survive and reports from around the UK indicate that wildlife is already being affected,” a spokesman for the centre said.

Head of Wetland Conservation Rob Shore added: “We’re struggling to keep our wetlands in winter which is virtually unheard of.

“The knock-on effect will be on the birds breeding in spring, so it is easy to see how quickly this can escalate.”

Yet despite the “worrying times”, the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust says the drought has had “positive and negative effects on wildlife”.

There was “fairly good breeding success this summer” but the Trust warns: “The areas of wet grassland further away from the river channel are very dry.

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“We simply do not have enough water to keep them wet. This is affecting the numbers of wintering wildfowl such as wigeon.”

Mr Shore says he is proposing “small but sensible changes” to help resolve the situation.

One is to create lots of small wetland areas to capture rainfall and by slowing the flow of water so it has more time to be absorbed by the soil.

However the Trust warns: “Farming is already under pressure to produce crops with an uncertain water supply.

“If supplies dwindle as predicted this summer, the conflict is likely to be pitched as farming versus wildlife when really both are victims of the way water is used and managed.”

Despite recent rain, most river systems are currently flowing at below average levels.

Many are critically low but the situation is even worse for groundwater supplies, which have not been replenished over the autumn or winter.