Project Ideas

VB Project Idea: Balancing the multifunctional role of fen landscapes


Fens have been reduced to a fragment of their former size throughout Europe.  Human interaction with fens dates back a long way.  This has increased the cultural and historical value of these landscapes, evidenced by the presence of traditional windmills, lakes and canals - the aesthetic and recreational values of which are greatly appreciated by many users and visitors.

Fens still serve a multifunctional role by representing a large array of ecosystem services, including the highest biodiversity found among wetlands, freshwater supply, fuel sources, flood protection, recreation, water purification and carbon sequestration.  However, the water resources, which fens are dependent on, are facing increasing demands as they must support a wide range of human activities whilst also sustaining healthy ecosystem services. 

Due to abstraction for drinking water and spray irrigation, combined with inputs from households and pollution from roads, point source sceptic tanks, boats, agriculture and industry, the pressure on fen landscapes and those managing them is now huge.  The greatest threat to fens may come from climate change, although there is still great uncertainty about what the effects will be.  These competing pressures will severely affect the quantity and quality of ecosystem services provided by fen landscapes. 

The clock is ticking – we know we have little time to address the problem before irreparable damage is caused to some of the highest quality habitats across Europe and the vital ecosystem services they provide are lost.  However, there are a number of challenges involved in trying to address the problem, which include:

  • Lack of robust hydrological evidence and in depth understanding of requirements of a wide range of threatened species, which is needed to identify the key contributors to and recipients of water quality issues and their impact on fen ecology.
  • Lack of knowledge about novel fen habitat management / restoration techniques.
  • Conflicting stakeholder interests, which can impede the realization and success of any regulations, policies, and measures that are put forward. 
  • Lack of understanding and shared perspective of the value of the underground water resource by ALL users.

East of England
RSPB, Eastern England Regional Office, Stalham House, 65 Thorpe Road


James Paul

Tel: +44 (0)1603 697593

Central Aim

This project will promote sustainable land and water management across fen landscapes by tackling the four key challenges listed above.

Using selected case study sites from across the project partnership, the project will address land and water management and practices to obtain improvements to the underground water resource by: 1) increasing understanding of fen eco-hydrology / management by those managing fen sites; and 2) improving relationships with / between key stakeholders - in the process achieving a shared perspective of the value of the underground water resource by all users.

Envisaged Output

Potential strands of activity for development with EU partners include:


  • Evidence base to influence (or enforce) better water / land management both internally and externally across wider landscape.
  • Long term data set of groundwater levels and water movement to inform long term impact of climate change.
  • Case studies / exemplars of how to monitor and address water issues for roll out across UK / EU.

Habitat Management:

  • Provision of on-site training days in fen hydrology / management / restoration for land managers across the project partnership, to continue post-project.
  • Study of novel habitat management / restoration techniques.

Partnership Working:

  • Mapping exercise of catchment areas.
  • Establishment of stakeholder groups with buy in from partners, landowners and communities.
  • Action plans that include jointly agreed mechanisms that could be implemented or enforced to improve water quality / quantity.

People Engagement:

  • Development of new and effective ways of engaging the public, including innovative approaches at sites that need careful visitor management to avoid risk of damage.

Partners Found Already
  • Norfolk Rivers Trust

Partners Sought
  • Nature conservation organisations
  • Research institutions
  • Local authorities
  • Water authorities

Estimated Budget
To be confirmed

Thematic Keywords
Ecosystem services, catchment management, sustainable environmental management, ecosystem management, water quality, stakeholder involvement, fen, wetland, climate change, habitat management, pollution, abstraction, river catchment, people engagement

Lead Beneficiary

08 April 2015

Event Calendar
Events Archive

09 July 2015
06 July 2015
30 June 2015
18 May 2015
21 April 2015