It’s hard not to be passionate about the celebration of World Wetlands Day, since all of what you see on this blog, the unique landscapes and its wonderful critters — are dependent on wetland ecosystems! Officially February 2, World Wetlands Day is an international celebration of the planet’s marshes, swamps, and bogs. It marks the anniversary of the signing of the Convention on Wetlands, called the Ramsar Convention, on February 2, 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar. World Wetlands Day was first celebrated in 1997, and since then government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and citizens all over the world have aimed to raise public awareness of the critical value and intrinsic benefits of wetland ecosystems.
Despite the growing awareness of this unique ecosystem, there are sobering threats facing the survival of our wetlands:
- A 2011 federal study estimated the U.S. lost 62,300 acres of wetlands between 2004-2009 — a loss rate 140% higher than from 1998-2004
- Wetland habitat has now been cut within the contiguous U.S. to 110 million acres…. And those surviving wetlands face dangers like hypoxia due to water pollution and invasive species. Pythons and melaleuca in the Everglades (among a host of other destructive non-native species), and nutria in New Orleans continue to ravage the structure of this ecosystem
- Wetlands are extremely sensitive, and are counted as one of the most vulnerable ecosystems subject to climate change
- Wetlands residents have suffered terribly due to increased habitat loss. Throughout Florida for example — just to pick one critter — we witnessed a dramatic decrease in the populations of the already-endangered Wood storks, due to the decline and destruction of their homes, as well as what many believe to be extreme weather patterns (dry winter / wet winter) in the last few years. Like so many other wetlands-dependent species, the disappearance of the Wood stork would signal the loss of a crucial component of our wetlands. But it’s not all doom-and-gloom for this gentleman stork, as he appears to have returned this year — hoorah! Fingers crossed that our healthy wetlands will maintain their nests — and that awareness and education will help other species (though perhaps not quite as handsome as my gentleman, below).
There’s much that can be done to restore and protect this vital habitat — check out your local resources, visit your neighboring natural areas, and above else, LOVE YOUR WETLANDS and their amazing inhabitants!
The theme for the 2013 World Wetlands Day is Wetlands Take Care of Water. Wetlands provide critical functions, including groundwater replenishment, water purification, flood control, and nutrient storage. They also offer biodiversity, if allowed to flourish. But their health depends on the quality and quantity of the water that reaches them.
For more information, visit World Wetlands Day 2013