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Move to aid waders.

CLIMATE experts may be predicting a possible drought in 2004, but the threat of flooding to riverside towns and villages in Wales remains a real possibility this winter.

Farmland drainage schemes and minimal management of flood plains, has increased the incidence of flash-floods after periods of heavy and prolonged rainfall and wading birds are among the losers.

RSPB Cymru and Environment Agency Wales have joined forces to try to improve matters, particularly for birds that breed on floodplain grassland.

There have been dramatic declines in the breeding populations of wading birds such as curlew and lapwing. Both are on the red list of most threatened species in Wales.

Between 1982 and 2002, lapwings declined by 71% and curlews by 79%. The breeding population of redshanks declined by 62 %.

The new partnership project aims to help put a halt to these decline and promote recovery by identifying key sites where focused efforts at conservation would bring the most benefit to wading birds.

'We are striving to achieve a balance between the needs of the landowner or farmer, and those of biodiversity,' said EAW northern area manager Steve Moore.

'Restoring floodplains is not just about biodiversity. Apart from the obvious benefits such as flood reduction, keeping water on the land for longer allows the groundwater table to recover which helps our water resources.

'It also reduces the flashiness of rivers, making them less prone to erosion, extending the fishing time for anglers and reducing pollution through nutrient uptake in floodplain soils.'

Mr Moore said catchment flood management plans were fundamental to the new approach and offer opportunities to restore wetlands and the role of natural floodplains, reducing the risk of floods for many Welsh towns and villages.

Linking the statutory responsibilities of the Environment Agency to promote conservation through sustainable flood management and RSPB Cymru's drive to protect bird habitats achieves joined-up thinking.

RSPB Cymru director Tim Stowe described the new approach as innovative. 'In the longer term, climate change will require us to adopt new approaches to land and water management which if properly managed, can result in very wide-ranging benefits for everyone,' he said.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 20, 2003
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