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Moderating extremes in water availability in Scotland: a review of the role of functioning wetlands

A synthesis of new and existing research on the role of functioning wetlands in moderating water availability in a Scottish context.

The estimated two million hectares of Scotland’s wetlands supply ecosystem services by providing multi-functional water storage across catchments. When in good health, these wetlands may have the capacity to buffer societies and ecosystems from high and low flows, mitigating both flood and drought risks respectively. The potential beneficiaries of this are the downstream communities, businesses, infrastructure, and biodiversity associated with wetlands. The role of functioning wetlands in moderating (buffering) extremes in water availability may be integral to climate mitigation strategy given that that Scotland is projected to experience increased frequency of flooding and drought situations, as well as their coexistence, due to climate change.

Yet wetlands have been and continue to be under pressure from land use and climate change. These impacts may compromise Scotland’s wetland health and buffering capacity. Wetland restoration is often focused on carbon sequestration benefits but the road to recovery can also benefit water and land management. The outputs from this project may have broader implications for policy development, planning options, and inform best practice approaches for managing wetland health and buffering capacity now and in future.


Project Objectives

Research questions to be considered in this project: 

- How do a broad range of wetlands in Scotland buffer extremes of water availability, focusing on both low and high flows? What are the mechanisms for this and their relative importance?

- How is this buffering capability compromised when wetlands are degraded due to land use conversion or climate change? 

What are the impacts, caused by extremes of water availability, on the biodiversity of Scottish wetlands?

- Are there opportunities or potential changes in land or water management, which could enhance this buffering capability of wetlands in Scotland?

Contact Pauline Lang