Today is World Wetlands Day, a day to celebrate our wonderful wetlands, the wildlife that thrives within them and the benefits that we as a society gain from them. Wetlands cover very little of the world’s surface, but are home to a disproportionately large number of species, including almost 45 per cent of the world’s fish species, over 80 per cent of turtles, and waterbirds who either live in wetlands permanently or use them as refuelling stops on their long migrations.
Wetlands are of vital importance to wildlife, and they are also critical for humanity. It’s hardly surprising that the majority of our towns and cities are located on the banks of wetlands; they provide us with water to drink, for sanitation, growing food and for industry and energy. They also provide society with other less appreciated benefits such as storing carbon dioxide, a food source, reducing storm surges, storing and spreading floodwater and safeguarding against drought.
However, our societal dependence on wetlands is also risking their very existence; 1/3 of freshwater species are threatened and it’s estimated that populations of freshwater species have shrunk by 81 per cent since the 1970s. This decline is the biggest observed across any ecosystem and provides strong indication that we are risking the environment upon which we all depend. The theme of this year’s World Wetland Day is ‘Wetlands for a Sustainable Urban Future’. The history of our society is intertwined with wetlands, and so is our future. Through the HSBC Water Programme, WWF has been working to restore and protect some of the world’s most important wetlands for over fifteen years. Above are some examples of our work which highlights the critical role wetlands play in our lives.
World Wetlands Day is Friday 2nd February 2018. This year’s theme is ‘wetlands for a sustainable urban future’. WWF is an official partner to World Wetlands Day, which is run by the Ramsar Convention (www.worldwetlandsday.org). The Pantanal, Western Brazil provides ecosystem services for around 8 million people who live in the wider Paraguay river basin. The Pantanal is home to thousands of species including the Jaguar and Giant otter. The Pantanal is under threat from multiple small dams, deforestation for agriculture and pollution.
© R.Isotti, A.Cambone / Homo Ambiens / WWF WWF created the Pantanal Pact, a political framework designed to create local ownership and lasting commitment to taking action to protect the freshwater resources in the region. It includes commitments like the restoration of degraded forest around springs and tributaries. Find out who signed up to the Pact here: http://blogs.wwf.org.uk/blog/habitats/rivers-freshwater/pantanal-pact-20-down-5-to-go/
© Michel Gunther / WWF The Mara River is home to the ‘great migration’ of millions of zebra, wildebeest and other antelopes, attracting tourists from around the globe. Over 200 hotels and lodges are located next to the Mara and often their poorly treated wastewater also ends up in the river. WWF is engaging hotels in the Mara in a pilot programme to implement natural solutions – constructed wetland habitats – to improve upon existing waste water treatment methods. © Martin Harvey / WWF Wetlands act as natural waste water treatment systems, and when carefully constructed and managed can breakdown harmful pollutants in the natural cycle of decomposition. WWF has trained staff from over 40 hotels along the Mara River on the design, construction and maintenance of constructed wetlands, and assisted three hotels to build their own constructed wetland. Find out more here: https://www.thewaterhub.org/content/blog/constructed-wetlands-mara © Kate Holt / WWF-UK Kokkarebellur, a village in Karnataka, India, is named after the painted storks – ‘kokkare’ – which migrate there each year to breed. Over the generations, the storks and other migratory waterbirds have been uniquely integrated into the lives of local villagers. However, society’s need for water has led to this area completely drying up, which is now impacting the birds as well as local people. © Ola Jennersten Local people have joined forces as ‘Friends of the Pelicans’ to protect the migratory birds and the habitats on which these rely. The area has been designated as a community reserve, the sole such reserve in Karnataka State. WWF has supported the renovation of the Nature Interpretation Centre in Kokkarebellur and is supporting the community in their wetland conservation ambition. Find out more here: https://www.thewaterhub.org/content/blog/interpretation-centre-launches-ecotourism-venture-kokkarebellur-india-0 © WWF-India