2nd February every year is celebrated as World Wetlands Day with the aim of spreading awareness about the importance and purpose of wetlands. 5 decades ago, on the same day, the Convention on Wetlands was adopted in the city of Ramsar in Iran, which is also known as the Ramsar Convention.
World Wetland Day 2021 theme
This year's theme 'Wetlands and Water' focuses on wetlands as a source of freshwater. The theme also focuses on the restoration and protection of the wetlands. Major cities in the world are facing a freshwater crisis will is threatening not just humans, but also the biodiversity in these regions. This year's theme focuses on the contribution of the wetlands to the freshwater in our planet and how we can protect it.
What are Wetlands?
Wetlands are a piece of land that is immersed or flooded with water either permanently or seasonally. The water present in the soil of the land, also called Hydrology, determines the types of vegetation and animals that can survive there. The water generally is the groundwater that seeps up from a spring or aquifer (underground water layer between rock beds). The plant species called Hydrophytes are seen in such lands that are suitable for their growth.
Types of Wetlands
There are a variety of wetlands across the globe due to the variation in climate, hydrology, topography, etc. Wetlands are found in every continent except Antarctica. The wetlands are categorized as Coastal or Tidal, and Inland or non-Tidal wetlands.
Coastal wetlands consist of saltwater as well as freshwater located near coasts, especially in watersheds that drain into the Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, and the Gulf of Mexico. These wetlands also consist of hardwood, mangrove, and fresh swamps and shrubby depressions known in the US as Pocosins. 81% of coastal wetlands are located in the United States alone.
Inland/ Non-Tidal Wetlands
This is the most common on floodplains and is located along the rivers and streams. Such wetlands include marshes and wet meadows. Herbaceous plants and shrubs dominate these regions.
Why are wetlands so important?
Humans depend on wetlands more than one could imagine. Wetlands possess some of the most productive environments, biodiversities, and ecosystems that provide water and several other dietary requirements to tonnes of animals. To us, they provide freshwater, building material, flood control, and climate crisis mitigation. They act like massive reservoirs that absorb excess water during a flood and provide water when needed. They also protect the coastal areas from storms. They also work act as water-treatment plants as the fungi, algae of the wetlands purify the wastewaters. These organisms absorb the chemicals and pollutants.
Wetlands are very popular for recreational activities, such as hiking, canoeing, and bird watching. The United States has a $100 billion market around these wetland-related activities. Easy to understand here, that the wetlands are a source of income for a large population of the world. Over 75% of the fishes that are commercially harvested for sale are linked with wetlands.
Wetland Flora and Fauna
Wetlands are home to a dozen of rare and endangered species of plants and animals (IUCN Red List). The plants are submerged in water. Evergreen trees are also found in such lands, along with side carnivorous plants. A variety of animals call the wetlands their home. Some good examples are Beavers, Otters, Deer, Minks, and Bobcats. Alligators, salamanders, and turtles are also found here, along with mosquitoes, dragonflies, snails, and shrimps.
Many migratory bird and animal species breed and nest in wetlands, before going back to their habitat. Some good examples are Pelicans and Herons. Reptiles live most of their lives in water and need water for their survival. Hence wetlands are a paradise for them. They find water and plenty of food that they need for their survival.
Destruction and Protection of Wetlands
The past decades have seen a continuous decline in most wetlands across the globe. As a result, there have been massive destructions of ecosystems and biodiversities. Half of the wetlands in the US have already been destroyed for development projects. A similar incidence has happened in Ireland and Scandinavia. Overpopulation is already putting a strain on the manufacturing sector and forcing the opening of more industries and factories, hence more destruction to the wetlands.
Many governments now are taking initiatives to save the wetlands. The US has a law against the destruction of wetlands. Indian government launched the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules in 2017 which allows the state to refuse activities that may pose a threat to wetlands.
The Ramsar Secretariat, also known as the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat, has been providing financial support to organizations and groups for organizing the WWD and spread awareness about the same. The theme for 2020 was Wetlands and Biodiversity, and 2019 was Wetlands and Climate Change.
How can you and I contribute?
Organize an event, participate in such, or educate. Spreading awareness is the key to protecting the environment and all other aspects of it. Participate in cleanups. Translate the information you gathered today from this blog and educate your community. Hold and participate in discussions and other competitions.
Author: Subhasri Banerjee
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