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World Wetlands Day: Preserving Our Natural Heritage

On February 2nd, people worldwide come together to celebrate World Wetlands Day. This day calls us to protect the planet's wetlands, which harbor diverse plant and animal life. They are critically important ecosystems that absorb carbon dioxide, making them effective climate mitigation mechanisms. Read on to learn more.

Featured in: February - Awareness Months, Days & Observances.

History and Background of World Wetlands Day

wetlands
Photo by U.S. Geological Survey on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Cropped from original).

In 1971, various parties signed the Ramsar Convention in the Iranian city of Ramsar. The treaty was a pioneering effort towards global conservation of wetlands, with support from Luc Hoffmann, a Swiss conservationist, and Eskandar Firouz, who led Iran's Department of the Environment. 

The main aim of the treaty was to highlight the importance of preserving wetlands and to promote their sustainable use. After a couple of years, World Wetlands Day officially began only in 1997. This event has gained recognition over the years, with an increasing number of voices from government agencies, non-profit organizations, and individuals worldwide joining the cause. 

The number of parties to the Ramsar Convention has increased from 18 to 170, indicating a growing global commitment to preserving wetlands. 

Moreover, the UN began observing World Wetlands Day as a United Nations International Day in 2022 by adopting Resolution 75/317.

Today, over 2,400 Ramsar Sites, covering 2.5 million square kilometers, have been identified as significant areas. These sites are vital in preserving the planet and its inhabitants and are recognized and protected for their global value.

Every year, a theme is set to herald the call for action and investment in human, financial, and political capital to save wetlands. In 2023, it will be “Wetlands Restoration,” and next year, it will be “Wetlands and Human Wellbeing.”

The Cause and Its Challenges

egret glides across the wetlands
Photo by Sara Cottle on Unsplash.

World Wetlands Day highlights the issue of wetland degradation - a significant environmental concern. Wetlands play a crucial role in purifying water, controlling floods, and providing habitats for various plant and animal species. Their animal and plant populations are also vital to maintaining world economies. 

However, they are disappearing at an alarming rate, three times faster than forests, according to the Ramsar Convention1. The main culprits behind this rapid destruction are unrestricted urban development and farming practices, as well as the effects of climate change. 

Losing wetlands not only affects the environment but also impacts communities that depend on these ecosystems. For instance, fishermen and rice farmers may need help due to shrinking catches and yields. 

Additionally, indigenous communities with cultural and spiritual roots embedded in these areas may witness their centuries-old traditions fading.

Moreover, climate change exacerbates the problem, as wetlands are nature's carbon vaults, trapping vast amounts of carbon in their soils. The destruction of the world’s wetlands could release significant amounts of stored carbon, contributing to global warming.

Lastly, wetlands are home to countless species, and their destruction puts these creatures in danger. According to the IUCN Red List, we risk losing a quarter of wetland-dependent species.

Related read: Wetlands and Climate Change - Impacts and Importance.

Efforts and Initiatives

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands is an international treaty that unites 170 nations and safeguards over 2,400 wetland sites. 

With initiatives like the Global Peatlands Initiative, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) focuses on the sustainable use, restoration, and conservation of inland wetlands like peatlands. 

Likewise, Wetlands International operates in over 100 countries. It advocates, researches, and conducts fieldwork to influence policy and practice.

Local success stories are also contributing to the global effort. The Chilika Development Authority in India is an example of balancing environmental protection and social well-being through wetlands restoration.

They have successfully revived Chilika Lake, Asia's largest brackish water lagoon, boosting the economy and preserving biodiversity.

How to Get Involved and Support World Wetlands Day

tree planting
Photo by Eyoel Kahssay on Unsplash.

You can start by sharing a photograph of a wetland and facts about these ecosystems on social media. This can spark interest among followers and encourage them to learn more about wetlands. 

Likewise, you can educate yourself about wetlands by reading books, watching documentaries, or taking online courses. You can also organize virtual events like movie nights or discussion groups to spread awareness about wetlands. 

Sign up for conservation organizations and join tree planting activities, clean-up drives, educational outreach programs, or make donations. 

Finally, organizing fundraising events such as a charity run or online auction can generate funds and raise awareness about wetlands.

Conclusion

During World Wetlands Day, we raise national and global awareness about the importance of wetlands in our environment. It reminds us of the urgent need to prioritize wetland restoration and conservation. The fate of our wetlands and the health of our planet ultimately depend on the actions we take today. 

World Wetlands Day FAQs

1. What is World Wetlands Day?

It is an event celebrated on February 2nd that raises awareness about the importance of wetlands and promotes their conservation.

2. Why are wetlands important?

They provide vital ecosystem services, such as water filtration, flood control, and habitat for various plant and animal species.

3. How are wetlands being threatened?

Wetlands face habitat destruction, pollution, climate change, and unsustainable land use practices.

4. How can I support wetland conservation?

You can join local initiatives, educate others about the importance of wetlands, reduce water pollution, and advocate for wetland protection policies.

1

Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. (2018). Global Wetland Outlook: State of the World’s Wetlands and their Services to People. Gland, Switzerland: Ramsar Convention Secretariat.

By Mike Gomez, BA.

Mike is a degree-qualified researcher and writer passionate about increasing global awareness about climate change and encouraging people to act collectively in resolving these issues.

Fact Checked By:
Isabela Sedano, BEng.

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