Diffuse pollution, and the contribution from agriculture in particular, has become increasingly important as pollution from point sources has been addressed by wastewater treatment. Land management approaches, such as construction of field wetlands, provide one group of mitigation options available to farmers. Although field wetlands are widely used for diffuse pollution control in temperate environments worldwide, there is a shortage of evidence for the effectiveness and viability of these mitigation options in the UK. The Mitigation Options for Phosphorus and Sediment Project aims to make recommendations regarding the design and effectiveness of field wetlands for diffuse pollution control in UK landscapes. Ten wetlands have been built on four farms in Cumbria and Leicestershire. This paper focuses on sediment retention within the wetlands, estimated from annual sediment surveys in the first two years, and discusses establishment costs. It is clear that the wetlands are effective in trapping a substantial amount of sediment. Estimates of annual sediment retention suggest higher trapping rates at sandy sites (0.5–6tha⁻¹yr⁻¹), compared to silty sites (0.02–0.4tha⁻¹yr⁻¹) and clay sites (0.01–0.07tha⁻¹yr⁻¹). Establishment costs for the wetlands ranged from £280 to £3100 and depended more on site specific factors, such as fencing and gateways on livestock farms, rather than on wetland size or design. Wetlands with lower trapping rates would also have lower maintenance costs, as dredging would be required less frequently. The results indicate that field wetlands show promise for inclusion in agri-environment schemes, particularly if capital payments can be provided for establishment, to encourage uptake of these multi-functional features.
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