World Wetlands Day 2 February 2023

Wetlands Environmental management

World Wetlands Day 2 February 2023

World Wetlands Day 2 February 2023

Written by: Lee-Anne Fellowes

Senior Environmental Consultant at Shangoni

It is that time of the year where we celebrate World Wetlands Day. The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance was adopted in Ramsar 46 years ago, on 2 February 1971.

World Wetlands Day is celebrated annually to raise global awareness on the vital role of wetlands for people and our planet.

This year’s theme is “it’s time for wetland restoration”. South Africa has lost approximately 50% of its original wetland areas.

Wetlands have many benefits:

  • Wetlands purify our water
    They act as great filters and trap sediments and remove pollutants.
  • Wetlands store our water to ensure supply during dry periods
    Wetlands work like giant sponges. They store water and then slowly release it, and this helps to deal with dry seasons with little rainfall.
  • Wetlands can prevent floods
    When rivers burst their banks, wetlands can store the excess water, and slow it down so it distributes more evenly over a floodplain. The roots of trees and other vegetation also help slow the speed of flood waters.
  • Wetlands recharge ground water
    In the past, city planners either filled in wetland areas or dammed them, adding pipes that would lead the water to the ocean as fast as possible. But now we know that wetlands allow water to soak into the ground, and to replenish the natural ground-water supply.
  • Wetlands help to control erosion
    Sediments are trapped by wetlands. In a semi-arid country like South Africa, the role of wetlands in trapping sediments, before the sediment-laden water joins a river course and just washes away, is useful.
  • Wetlands provide shelter for juvenile fish
    Fish larvae and fish fry (juveniles) use the calm, shallow waters of wetlands as a nursery.
  • Wetlands provide homes for animals and plants
    Biodiversity is high around wetland habitats. These areas provide food and shelter for many animals, in particular bird species such as herons, spoonbills and flamingos, and amphibians such as frogs.
  • Wetlands provide food for livestock
    Wetlands provide good areas for grazing, and the variety of grasses, along with a supply of running water, can be beneficial to farming livestock.
  • Wetlands protect biodiversity
    Many kinds of creatures depend on wetlands – and on each other. The insects that are attracted to the plants provide food for other animals like fish, frogs, and birds, who in turn attract other predators. The biodiversity of wetlands has produced some incredible specialist species that are only found in these habitats.
  • Wetlands provide locations for recreation
    Wetland Nature Reserves in your city provide people with the opportunity to enjoy nature walks, picnics, birding, fishing or even sailing. As more people flock to cities, these recreational spaces become even more valuable.

How You Can Support Wetland Restoration in Your Area

Be on the lookout for Wetland Nature Reserves in your city and pay them a visit. Identify opportunities where you as an individual or as an organization can support the theme of restoring our wetlands to allow optimal benefits for us and our future generations.

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