Blog by: Kassie Burns
Happy World Wetlands Day! The theme for this year is wetland restoration, to help bring attention to the horrendous loss of ecosystems and the need to prioritize their restoration (International Coral Reef Initiative, 2023); but what is a wetland, and why should we care about them?
A wetland is an area where the primary element is water that helps dictate the environment, plant, and animal life (United Nations, 2023). They can range from large bodies of water like lake shorelines or rivers, to smaller areas like ponds or wet grasslands. They also diversify in marine or freshwater systems. The general requirement for a location to be established as a wetland is for the site to be saturated with water for varying periods of the year, so that area may dry but is known to become flooded again (United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2022).
The unique nature of wetlands to connect both aquatic and terrestrial environments provides an optimal and necessary habitat for many organisms which makes ecosystems rich in biodiversity. Although they only account for 6% of the earth’s land surface, wetlands are required for 40% of all plant and animal life to live or reproduce (United Nations, 2023). Not only are they vital components to maintain biodiversity, but they also provide a variety of benefits that directly improve human quality of life. These benefits or ecosystem services are ones that occur naturally through different processes undertaken in the environment, with some listed below.
Ecosystem Services and Benefits
- Water regulation
- Flood and storm prevention
- Water purification
- Food production
- Job growth
- Recreational activities
- Educational opportunities
- Enhances health and well-being
Despite the vital importance of wetlands and the many roles they play, their value is not always recognized. Wetlands continue to get drained for agricultural and urban development. Climate change and invasive species threaten ecosystems further, as well as pollution and the overexploitation of resources. In the last 50 years, wetlands have declined by 35%, which is a rate that is three times faster than that of forest decline (United Nations, 2023).
That is why this year’s World Wetlands Day theme reflects on reviving and restoring degraded wetlands. There is an urgent need to take action to bring back what has been lost, and that can start with you! Help spread awareness of these valuable ecosystems so they can get the restoration needed!
What Can You Do?
- Educate yourself on wetlands and share knowledge with others
- Become a wetland champion by advocating for their protection and restoration (ICRI, 2023)
- Be conscious of the amount of water used and aware of toxins in products migrating to water sources (ICRF, 2023)
- Do not litter and help to clean-up a wetland site
- Volunteer directly to a wetland restoration project! Visit the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) to see their list of volunteer opportunities.
International Coral Reef Initiative. (2023). World Wetlands Day 2023 materials are now available online. Retrieved January 18, 2023, from https://icriforum.org/world-wetlands-day-2023-materials/
United Nations. (2023). World Wetland Day February 2. Retrieved January 18, 2023, from https://www.un.org/en/observances/world-wetlands-day#:~:text=Wetlands%20are%20a%20natural%20solution,all%20the%20world’s%20forests%20combined.
United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2022). What is a Wetland? Retrieved January 18, 2023, from https://www.epa.gov/wetlands/what-wetland