Do on-farm natural, restored, managed and constructed wetlands mitigate agricultural pollution in Great Britain and Ireland?: a systematic review

Newman, Jonathan R.; Duenas-Lopez, Manuel A.; Acreman, Mike C.; Palmer-Felgate, Elizabeth J.; Verhoeven, Jos T.A; Scholz, Miklas; Maltby, Edward. 2015 Do on-farm natural, restored, managed and constructed wetlands mitigate agricultural pollution in Great Britain and Ireland?: a systematic review. London, UK, Defra, 81pp. (Final report WT0989, CEH Project no. C04700)

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Wetlands in agricultural landscapes offer a number of benefits to the landscape function in which they are set, reducing nutrient runoff, providing additional habitat mosaics and offering various ecosystem services. They require careful planning and maintenance in order to perform their optimum design function over a prolonged period of time. They should be treated as functional units of farm infrastructure rather than fit-and-forget systems. A high priority topic within the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) water quality programme is the mitigation of pollution from agriculture. This programme was set up to meet the requirements of the European Water Framework Directive (WFD) EU (2000). Nutrient loss from agricultural land has been suggested as a major cause of elevated nutrient concentrations in surface waters in the UK. Nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) are of particular concern as an excess of either nutrient can lead to eutrophication of freshwater systems and coastal waters. Agriculture has also been identified as a significant source of suspended sediment (SS) concentrations in UK rivers and agriculturally derived sediment has been identified as a source of increased bed-sediment P concentrations in rivers. High bed sediments loads have other negative impacts, such as clogging river gravels reducing fish spawning. There is considerable evidence in the published and grey literature that wetlands have the ability to remove nutrients and sediment and thus reduce the load on receiving waters. Wetlands have also been reported to perform other ecosystem services, such as reducing floods, supporting biodiversity and sequestering carbon. A policy to promote the conservation, management, restoration or construction of wetlands could help to mitigate the impacts of N, P and SS from agriculture delivering requirements of WFD through Catchment Sensitive Farming following an Ecosystem Approach and Catchment Based Approach promoted by Defra. It could also meet other commitments such as implementing the Ramsar and Biodiversity Conventions to which the UK is a signatory. However, the term wetlands covers a wide range of habitat types and it is important that policy makers are provided with accurate, robust and independently reviewed information on the degree to which different types of wetland perform these services under different circumstances, so that policy can most best targeted. This systematic review assesses the available evidence on the performance of various wetland types on farms to reduce nutrient input and suspended sediments to receiving waters. It provides a defensible evidence base on which to base policy. The studies reviewed cover different input loads and the analysis compares performance of these wetland systems in respect of % reduction efficiency. In England and Wales, Defra, working closely with the Environment Agency and Natural England, has commissioned this systematic review on how effective, and what influences the effectiveness of wetlands at mitigating N, P and SS inputs from agriculture to receiving freshwater in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Item Type: Publication - Report
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Acreman
Rees (from October 2014)
Funders/Sponsors: Defra
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Freely available online via Official URL link
Additional Keywords: systematic review
NORA Subject Terms: Hydrology
Agriculture and Soil Science
Date made live: 26 Jan 2015 15:06 +0 (UTC)

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