Most people have never heard of World Wetlands Day or why it’s even celebrated. The day itself, observed around the globe each year on February 2, may not seem all that significant to many, but more than anything, World Wetlands Day is a reminder of the vital role wetlands play, not only for countless ecosystems and wildlife but also human life.
From the mitigation of climate change to safeguarding from floods, wetland conservation also protects our planet and ourselves. What’s more, according to a recent study from the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, despite being among some of the world’s most valuable and diverse ecosystems, wetlands are disappearing three times faster than forests.
Sadly, the study also notes that around 35 percent of wetlands—which include lakes, rivers, marshes, and peatlands, as well as coastal and marine areas like lagoons, mangroves and coral reefs—have been completely destroyed between 1970 and 2015. If we don’t start taking more of an active role in caring for wetlands, we are putting ourselves and the entire planet at risk. Here are 5 reasons why wetlands matter and why you should care.
We desperately need to find as many ways as possible to reduce the number of pollutants that are in our atmosphere. One major way to combat this is with wetlands. The plants and trees, such as mangroves, seagrass, and kelp beds, known as blue carbon ecosystems that make wetlands their homes, are incredible at filtering pollutants and absorbing and storing atmospheric carbon that directly contribute to global warming.
Wetlands are amazing natural water filtration systems. They trap natural sediment and organic matter, and filter out pollutants from rain and stormwater runoff, such as toxic metals and fertilizers from industrial and agricultural activity. Without wetlands filtering sediment and pollutants, shorelines and surrounding ecosystems around the globe would be less hospitable to life.
Trapping sediments not only purifies that water but it prevents sediment-laden water from joining a river course and contributing further to major damaging erosion. Additionally, when rivers overflow, wetlands are able to 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. In fact, studies estimate that wetlands in the US reduce the severity of impact on coastal communities by hurricanes, and their estimated worth is $23.2 billion per year.
Wetlands act very much like a giant sponge, storing water for long periods of time ensuring we have backup water during times of drought. The water that is stored is allowed to slowly soak back into the ground, which also replenishes natural groundwater supply.
Wetlands are full of biodiversity serving as a home to countless plant and animal species, including many that are endangered. Birds, amphibians, fish, and all sorts of mammals and insects rely upon wetlands for survival. Reportedly, a quarter of these animals and plants who call wetlands home are at risk of becoming extinct.
As one of the most effective ways to combat climate change, WILDCOAST’s established programs directly work to conserve wetlands. So far we have helped protect 71,174 acres of mangrove forests that have sequestered approximately 26.7 million tons of carbon. Additionally, we work closely with California Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) that protect more than 545,000 acres of biologically, culturally, and economically significant wetland, coastal, and marine ecosystems.
We need your help to continue building our efforts. To make a difference and support our Blue Carbon initiative and our efforts to conserve mangroves, VOLUNTEER, DONATE, or OFFSET YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT today.