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February 2 is World Wetlands Day, and if an environmental problem ever wanted a day devoted to elevating consciousness, it might be wetlands safety.
For most of human historical past, wetlands have been referred to as swamps or bogs, believed to be the supply of illness, and scorned as unproductive. Wetlands have been and proceed to be systematically destroyed world wide. Only in current many years have we began to grasp why you shouldn’t drain the swamp.
What Are Wetlands?
Wetlands are areas which can be both seasonally or completely saturated with water or flooded.
There are three sorts of wetlands: inland, coastal, and man-made. Inland wetlands embody marshes, ponds, bogs, fens, rivers, floodplains, and swamps. Coastal wetlands embody saltwater marshes, estuaries, mangroves, lagoons, and even coral reefs. Human-made wetlands embody fish ponds, rice paddies, and salt pans — though naturally occurring salt pans additionally exist. Each of those has an environmental function to play.
Environmental Value of Wetlands
Directly or not directly, wetlands provide a lot of the world’s consumable contemporary water. More than 40% of all species dwell and breed in wetlands. Inland wetlands perform like sponges, absorbing and storing water to scale back flooding throughout heavy rainfall. Also like sponges, wetlands launch saved water throughout dry seasons, delaying droughts and minimizing water shortages.
Coastal wetlands scale back storm surges and floods, defending coastlines from harm. A 2017 study discovered that coastal wetlands prevented $625 million in direct flood damages throughout Hurricane Sandy, lowering damages as much as 30% in some areas.
But one ecological service offered by wetlands has a worldwide impact. Wetlands are a carbon sink. Because they take up and retailer carbon, wetlands are crucial for slowing local weather change. Peatlands cowl solely 3% of the Earth’s floor, but retailer at the very least twice as a lot carbon because the world’s standing forests. In truth, salt marshes, mangrove forests, and seagrass meadows are every more efficient carbon sinks than rainforests.
Threats to Wetlands
Scientists acknowledged the significance of wetlands by 1970, however round 35% of pure wetlands have been misplaced between 1970 and 2015. The charge of destruction has accelerated within the 21st century.
The threats to wetlands are myriad, however surprisingly, most wetlands destruction is intentional. Development for human use and the development of dams and dikes, typically in a misguided try at flood safety, are among the many biggest threats to wetlands.
What Can I Do?
Check together with your native constructing authority for greatest practices in case you are constructing close to wetlands. If you will have waterfront property, use living shoreline design methods to handle it. In every day life, use water properly, and use phosphate-free detergents, nontoxic household cleaners, and unbleached paper products. Contribute to organizations that shield wetlands. Consider well-known organizations like The Wetlands Initiative, Waterkeeper Alliance, and Ducks Unlimited, however don’t overlook the small teams devoted to native wetlands safety.
The 1971 worldwide Convention on Wetlands, referred to as the Ramsar Convention after the city the place it was signed, offers governments with the framework for wetlands conservation. The Convention’s web site is stuffed with data, together with the Global Wetland Outlook report, for anybody who needs to be taught extra.
Feature picture courtesy of cocoparisienne, Pixabay. Originally printed on January 29, 2019, this text was up to date in January 2023.