Rivers and wetlands have always been an important feature of Cambridgeshire. Unfortunately, over the last fifty years, factors such as changing agricultural practices and water pollution have led to loss or decline of species and habitats.
For example the area of wet grazing marsh has been drastically reduced by improved drainage, while water vole populations have suffered dramatic decreases with the introduction of mink and removal of suitable habitat areas.
There is a great need to conserve existing wetland habitats and to create wildlife rich valleys containing additional areas of grassland, marshes and other wetlands. This will involve increasing the area of wetland habitat with no further loss of existing important habitats. Work to ensure that all rivers maintain their present water quality and, where necessary, improve it will be needed.
However, while humans have caused the destruction of many habitats, we have also created important habitats of artificial origin. Washlands, originally created for flood defence, are now of international importance for birds, as well as for harbouring rare wetland plants. The Ouse Washes and the Nene Washes were both man-made and now represent 41.5% of all the Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) area in the county.
A Drainage Ditch Officer has been in post since September 2005 to raise the profile of wildlife associated with drainage ditches and promote wildlife-sympathetic ditch management in the Fenland area.
The Wetland Habitat Action Plans for Standing Water (Ponds and Lakes), Rivers & Streams, Fens and Fenland Drainage Ditches have been updated in 2009.