World Wetlands Day (WWD) marks the date when the Iranian city of Ramsar adopted the Convention on Wetlands on February 2, 1971. WWD has been celebrated each year on February 2 since 1997.
The Ramsar secretariat provides materials to all interested groups including government agencies, conservation organizations, non-governmental organizations, and groups of citizens in order to celebrate and promote awareness of the importance of wetlands.
WWD activities include lectures and seminars, nature walks, community clean up days, children’s art contests, radio and television interviews, the launch of new wetland policies, and much more.
What is a wetland?
A wetland is an area of land that is covered or touched by water either permanently or seasonally. Examples of wetlands are bogs, marshes, and swamps.
The Ramsar Convention defines wetlands as “…areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six metres.”
There are two types of Wetlands: Coastal (Tidal) and Inland (Non-tidal)
-Tidal wetlands are found near our coasts. plants are unlikely to grow in tidal wetlands due to the mixing of fresh water with salt water in nearby estuaries.
-Non-tidal wetlands are found inland next to rivers, lakes, ponds and streams. Non-tidal wetlands have fresh water and are therefore ideal habitat for plants to grow healthily such as brush-filled marshes and wooded swamps.
Why are Wetlands Important?
Wetlands benefit people and ecosystems by providing ecosysem services such as flood control, ground water replenishment, shoreline and storm protection, water purification, climate change regulation, wetland products, biodiversity, and cultural values.
The theme of this year’s WWD is sustainable tourism which is also the theme of Ramsar Convention’s next meeting with the Conference of the Parties, COP11: Wetlands, Tourism and Recreation in June 2012.
Sustainable tourism encourages people to enjoy natural beauty while protecting the enviornment through conservation and respect of biodiversity and culture.
To achieve sustainable tourism, Ramsar is working closely with the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), an agency within the United Nations. Thanks to this partnership, tourism is now reported in 35% of Ramsar sites (wetlands that are listed under the Ramsar convention) which includes wetlands in Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Oceana and the Neurotropics.
In previous years, the Ramasar has focused on such themes as “Wetlands and Forests,” “Healthy Wetlands, Healthy People”, and “Caring for Wetlands- An Answer to Climate Change”- these themes focus on the health and wellbeing of wetlands and the communities that depend on them.
Fun Fact: Wetlands are found on every continent except Antarctica
Who knew that wetlands are so crucial to the wellbeing of you, me, and the entire planet?! Happy World Wetlands Day!
For more information and materials visit ramsar.org