World Wetlands Day, Feb. 2, 2015 Wetlands for our future

(The Philippine Star) - February 1, 2015 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Do you know what a wetland is? By looking at the word, you will probably guess that it is a piece of land that has water. That’s easy. But do you know what wetlands actually do? That’s the interesting part.

Swamps, marshes, lagoons, deltas, and bogs – they are collectively known as wetlands. People see them yet fail to recognize their value. 

Many do not realize the fact that wetlands are important ecosystems that support vital ecological functions, and provide valuable products and services for human survival.

Wetlands provide people with water and fish. As one of the most biologically productive natural ecosystems comparable to coral reefs, wetlands serve as habitat for plants and animals, including many endangered or threatened species.

Mangroves, freshwater turtles, waterbirds, crabs, monitor lizards, river dolphins, lobsters, and crocodiles are among the many species that thrive in these habitats.

Wetlands also support agriculture. Many family farming operations rely on the soil, water, plants and animals found in wetlands to provide food security and improve their livelihoods. Wetlands feed billions. 

Wetlands also help in water purification and waste treatment, flood control and storm protection, as well as provide recreational opportunities. They are also crucial in recharging groundwater reservoirs.

According to the Secretariat of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Convention), these services have been valued by economists at $14 trillion annually.

Wetlands also serve as a natural sponge against flooding and protect coastlines.

“This long list of benefits derived from wetlands tell us an important message. The future of humanity depends on wetlands,” said Roberto V. Oliva, executive director of the Asean Centre for Biodiversity (ACB).

On Feb. 2, people from around the globe will celebrate the many services that wetlands render humanity. “The ACB and our partners and stakeholders in the 10 Asean member states will join the rest of the world in celebrating World Wetlands Day 2015,” Oliva said.

World Wetlands Day marks the adoption of the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands, on Feb. 2, 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar. 

Since 1997, various organizations all over the world have undertaken actions aimed at raising public awareness of wetland values and benefits in general and the Ramsar Convention in particular.

The Asean region takes part in this global event as majority of the 10 Asean member states have recognized the special attributes of the wetlands and are parties to the Ramsar Convention.

The theme for 2015 is Wetlands for Our Future. According to the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention and partners Danone and Evian, “The general public are largely unaware of the vital benefits brought by wetlands. If anything, wetlands are equated with wasteland; something to be filled in or converted to other uses. In fact, scientists estimate that 64 percent of the world’s wetlands have disappeared since 1900. For World Wetlands Day 2015, we’re asking for your help in turning the tide and helping to create awareness of just how essential wetlands are for our future.”

Organizers of World Wetlands Day 2015 are specifically taking aim at the target group of tomorrow: youth aged 15-24. “Why youth? Teens and young adults have a growing interest in environmental issues, are tech savvy, and have a strong belief in their own ability to make a difference. Crucially, they also act as ‘transmitters,’ spreading the word to their families and friends, causing a ripple effect that reaches the wider public. You play an important role in reaching the youth audience,” they said.

“As a partner of the Ramsar Secretariat and a supporter of wetlands conservation, the ACB encourages all citizens of the Asean region especially the young people to take part in efforts to protect wetlands.  This is a shared responsibility among all of us who stand to lose so much,” Oliva said.

He added, “Humans are misusing and abusing wetlands. Already, large areas of wetlands have been lost mostly to agricultural development. Those that remain are heavily degraded due to the combined impacts of mismanagement, over-exploitation, and pollution. The effects of climate change further exacerbate the situation. This poses a real threat to biodiversity. We have to realize the crucial link. When wetlands are degraded, the species that live in them face serious trouble. What does this mean to us?  Two basic needs for human survival are taken away from us – food and water. Our future.”

Oliva shared some practical actions that people can take: “Support wetlands conservation and watershed protection initiatives in your community. Limit your use of products that contain hazardous waste (pesticides, cleaners, batteries). Dispose garbage properly. Conserve water. Learn more about wetlands. Get in touch with the Ramsar Secretariat by accessing www.ramsar.org.

Visit the official website of the World Wetlands Day celebration: http://www.ramsar.org/activity/world-wetlands-day-2015.”





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