The Oxfordshire–Buckinghamshire Freshwater Network project focuses on the role of smaller, peat-dominated wetlands, floodplains, wet grasslands and small waters in sequestering carbon in the landscape. Through habitat creation and restoration, it is also helping us to build the Freshwater Network - a national network of wilder, wetter, cleaner and connected freshwaters.

Aerial view of a landscape, including a meandering river and newly dug ponds.

With a rich wetland heritage, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire is one of the most important areas for freshwater wildlife in England. Despite being a hotspot for freshwater biodiversity, much of the counties’ freshwater wildlife has declined or disappeared entirely over the past 20 years, as a result of pollution, drainage and scrub encroachment.

Restoring and creating floodplain and alkaline fen

We’re working with landowners, public bodies and other conservation charities to create, restore and manage high quality freshwater habitats across Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. The work initially focuses on eight sites extending over 6,500 hectares, encompassing some of the counties’ richest wildlife habitats, from alkaline fens and ponds to historic floodplains and species-rich wet grassland.

Restoring these sites to a more natural state will increase the number of clean, unpolluted wetland and freshwater habitats, helping to reverse the decline in freshwater biodiversity. It’s all part of our vision to build the Freshwater Network.

Aerial view of alkaline fen with people raking and scything and electricity pylon.

- Volunteers at Hinksey Heights. Photo: Tim Bearder.

Small wetlands for carbon capture

Natural England will be given access to the sites to carry out innovative research on these habitats’ potential to capture and store carbon. This will help us understand how freshwaters and wetlands, which have been extensively drained and polluted over the last 250 years, could help to reduce the impacts of climate change.

Over a 10-year period, Natural England will measure carbon storage in floodplain wetland mosaics, species rich grassland and fen sites by carrying out soil core and gas flux analysis on the project sites. This will also run alongside vegetation surveys to compare increased biodiversity on restored landscapes with carbon sequestration capabilities.

Aerial view of field with several ponds.

Engaging local people with our freshwater heritage

Through the Oxfordshire-Buckinghamshire Freshwater Network project, we’re running a number of volunteer programmes. These include GroWet, which invites local people to help us grow rare wetland plants so they can be introduced to local wetlands.

People in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire will have the opportunity to get involved in local freshwater conservation through a series of guided walks, talks and events bringing people closer freshwater wildlife and connecting people to wetland heritage in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.


Find out more about GroWet Browse our events page
Three women holding plants in pots, standing outside a greenhouse