A thank you, from Mary-Kate Jones, Snowdonia Society Project Manager.
Yesterday I came across a social media debate on climate change; keyboard warriors passing the blame for the situation we find ourselves in today.
Whilst thinking over what I had read, I reminded myself of an important point: I feel very lucky. Lucky that there are people who care – volunteers, the un-sung heroes of the planet. The litter pickers and footpath builders, the people who manage habitats for wildlife, whether that’s cutting back scrub, getting rid of invasive species or helping native species to flourish. The people who put their time and energy into doing something good for the planet!
I’m now mainly office based, but I do still manage to sneak out to see what our team does on the ground. Last week, I escaped the office and ventured out with Snowdonia Society Project Officer Owain Thomas, Rob Booth from North Wales Wildlife Trust and their group of volunteers as they worked to manage a wetland.
Wetlands are some of my favourite habitats – they’re fascinating. Home to a unique assemblage of wildlife, they clean water, play a role in reducing flooding and are vital stores of carbon. Thus, they play an important role in preventing climate change. In fact, blanket bogs store more carbon than rainforests, despite covering a much smaller area. These special habitats have hidden depths – quite literally – with peat being over 10 metres deep on some sites. They need protecting.
Wetlands are sensitive and the most important requirement when managing them is to keep them wet. Trees are thirsty plants and invade wetlands when their seeds travel, settle and grow. This invasion is particularly problematic when wetlands border non-native conifer plantations – a never-ending seed bank of non-native, fast growing trees. If left unmanaged, these trees will quite literally drink a wetland dry. This has catastrophic consequences for the whole planet; as wetlands dry out, they release the carbon dioxide which is locked in the peat; they become unable to support the array of wildlife found there and their ability to reduce flooding is diminished. It is in everyone’s interest to protect wetlands and keep them in top condition – before it is too late.
This particular day was beautiful and sunny, and there was nowhere else I would have rather been than the beautiful Cors Bodgynydd nature reserve. Nine volunteers joined the day, each one from a different background, with different tastes, interests and beliefs. But they all came together for a common cause: to protect our wetlands! The atmosphere on the day was a refreshing contrast to the blame culture I have observed on Facebook. These incredible people worked side by side to clear invading conifers and birch saplings. I feel extremely grateful to them, and all our volunteers, for the work they do. At a time when politicians should be leading the way but aren’t, these people are quietly acting; doing unglamorous yet essential tasks while the rest of the world argues about where to start. Thank you.
If you would like to take some action and don’t know where to start, why not volunteer? As the saying goes, there is no planet B.