Welney wildfowl at risk from drought

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

The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust’s centre at Welney is one of those that could be worst affected by the drought because there has not been enough rainfall to flood grassland habitats.

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

Rob Shore, the WWT’s head of wetland conservation, said: “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.”

There have been some positives in Welney despite the lack of rainfall.

Usually the Ouse Washes has too much water at the wrong times, leading to the inundation of breeding wader habitat and the loss of chicks. Last year this didn’t happen and the trust had “fairly good breeding success” in the summer.

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But the trust warns that areas of wet grassland further from the river channel are very dry and there is insufficient water to keep them wet, 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, which will slow the flow of water so it has more time to be absorbed by the soil.

However, the trust spokesman said: “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.”