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Wetlands along the River Leven

  02 February 20 |   Forth Rivers Trust & Scottish Natural Heritage

World Wetlands Day (2 February 2020) aims to raise awareness of the importance and fragility of our wetlands, and to inspire us to value, protect and restore our wetlands.

Wetlands are habitats permanently or regularly saturated with water. 40% of the world’s plant and animal species live or breed in wetlands. And in fact, over 100,000 freshwater species have been recorded in this habitat. Globally, wetlands are estimated to provide ecosystem services worth $47 trillion annually.
 
Scotland's wetlands include fens, swamps, wet woodland, salt marshes, flushes and springs as well peatland and bogs. These are important habitats for rare plants, amphibians and migratory and wintering birds. 
 
As well as providing a vital home for nature, wetlands filter and store water, capturing runoff and pollutants and preventing flooding. Peatlands also lock up carbon and in Scotland alone, peat could sequester up to 1,600 million tonnes of carbon, that’s more than is stored in our woodlands! Wetlands are under pressure from agriculture and construction, pollution events, climate change and even invasive species. Many wetland species are in decline and under threat of extinction.


Kirkland Marsh

Kirkland Marsh is a wetland on the banks of the Leven at Methil. It is small, at 1 hectare in size and is protected from drying out by a sewage pipeline on one side and a steep bank on the other. It is dominated by one species of wetland plant – reed canary grass, but also has a few patches of rush and bulrush. Looking at the marsh, the water appears quite dirty, but this is an indication that it is doing a good job of trapping and storing pollution, rather than allowing it to run into the River Leven.
 
Herons and moorhens occupying the marsh as well as reed buntings that breed here. As it is hard to get into the marsh, it provides these birds with a lot of protection from predators. Their presence also indicates a plentiful supply of insects, seeds, berries and amphibians for them to feed on.
 
So even a small wetland like Kirkland is really important for biodiversity in the local area.

Loch Leven

 

Loch Leven is the largest lowland loch in Scotland and one of the most significant wetland sites in the UK. Its wetland and woodland habitats support internationally important populations of wintering and breeding waterbirds, and provide a haven for other wildlife. 

From autumn to spring, tens of thousands of birds from far and wide use it as a stopover to rest and refuel on their migrations. This includes over 20,000 geese, around 10% of the world’s population! To see and hear thousands of geese taking flight in a winter’s dawn or dusk is an experience not to be missed.

In summer the shallow loch is home to the largest concentration of breeding ducks in inland Europe. Also in summer, osprey can be seen hunting over the water perhaps hoping, like the anglers, to catch one of the loch’s world-famous brown trout.
 
With the 21 kilometre path surrounding it, there is no doubt that this world-class loch provides an exceptional wildlife experience. 
 
                                                                                                                
Photos credit - Lorne Gill (SNH)