The Ethics of Wetland Management and the Application of a New Philosophical Approach to the Somerset Levels, UK (pp. 85-108)
Authors: (Adrian Armstrong, Chris Bradley, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK)
Abstract: In this paper we review the philosophical positions underlying environmental ethics, and examine those issues that are particularly relevant to the management of freshwater wetlands. Although we are unable to establish a specific “wetland ethic” we identify a list of 8 criteria against which specific wetlands can be evaluated: rarity, disturbance, biodiversity, productivity, dynamism, remoteness, threat and utility. This highlights the degree to which wetlands can be identified as landforms that require protection, primarily because of their vulnerability to drainage and reclamation, but also as a consequence of their frequent location in geomorphologically dynamic areas that in many cases have a high potential for human exploitation. The insights from this review are then applied to a case study of the Somerset Levels, SW England. As a precursor, we present a brief description of the physical background of the Levels, and summarise changing historical attitudes to this wetland. Evaluating the Somerset Levels against the proposed ethical criteria demonstrate that the Levels deserve high levels of protection. Lastly, the wider application of these methods and results to areas of environmental protection elsewhere is discussed.