The World Wetlands Day is celebrated each year around the world on the 02nd of February. It marks the anniversary of the signing of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, also known as the Ramsar Convention, which took place in Ramsar, Iran on the 02nd February 1971. The day was celebrated for the first time in 1997, and ever since then, government agencies and non-government organisations as well as community groups have been commemorating the World Wetlands Day by taking conscious steps and actions to increase public awareness about wetlands. This includes creating awareness among people about the importance and benefits of protecting wetlands so that these lands can be conserved or used wisely. These awareness-raising activities include seminars, announcement of new Ramsar sites, festivals, nature walks, newspaper articles, wetland rehabilitation and radio interviews.
The World Wetlands Day 2019
The international theme for this year’s World Wetlands Day was “Wetlands and Climate Change”. This theme was also showcased in the February 2019 edition of Wetlands Australia. It has to be noted that these areas can be extremely vulnerable to climate change and can therefore be impacted by various changes in temperature, sea level rising or rainfall and any other extreme natural events. They can also play a pivotal role in our approach towards climate change mitigation as well as adaptation. This could take place through capturing and storing of carbon dioxide that will help reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases and will provide resilience when it comes to hazards such as floods, storm surges and sea level increases.
Benefits of Tidal Wetlands
Tidal wetlands generally include marshes, sand beaches and mudflats as well as shallow waters of rivers and creeks that will experience the changes in tide throughout the day. We directly benefit from tidal wetlands because they
- Filter upland runoff
- Remove any pollutants
- Prevents erosion of waterfront properties
- Offer flood control for homes and businesses in affected areas
- Provides a hatchery and a nursery for the fish in the area. Some of these fish may even be used for human consumption.
Nature also benefits from tidal wetlands as it provides a habitat for plants, invertebrates, reptiles, fish, birds and mammals, and also offers a stopover for the migrating bird species.
Benefits of Non-tidal Wetlands
Non-tidal wetlands may not be areas by the water and can include forests and fields. They may either remain wet throughout the year or during some periods in a year. If your locality easily floods during a storm you may actually be living in a wetland that has been filled up due to the construction industry. These wetlands offer benefits such as;
- Erosion control
- Retention of nutrients
- Recharging of groundwater (Did you know that just 1 acre of wetland can actually hold up to a million gallons of water?)
- Habitat for various species of animals and birds
- It is the first line of defense against the pollution from surface water runoff.
Threats and losses to wetlands
“Over half of the world’s wetlands have disappeared since 1900. Development and conversion continue to pose major threats to wetlands, despite their value and importance.” – http://wwf.panda.org/our_work/water/intro/threats/
Unfortunately, wetlands are at risk due to irresponsible and short sighted human activities. The conversion of these lands for commercial developments, drainage schemes, extracting minerals and peat, tourism, overfishing, siltation, pesticide discharges from agriculture, toxic waste from industrial processes and the construction of dams and dikes that are thought of as a method of flood protection are posing massive threats to the continued existence of Wetlands around the globe.
How can we help save Wetlands?
This isn’t something that can happen overnight and it should begin at the grassroots level. The first step would be to raise awareness and knowledge about the benefits of wetlands and how you can conserve them. You can also use erosion control products and re-vegetation products such as coir logs and blankets to help protect the wetlands and ensure that they continue to stay on for the betterment of the generations yet to come.