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Happy World Wetlands Day!!!

I have always thought of today as Groundhog Day - the day we find out how much more of winter we will have to indure....but not anymore!!  Since becoming involved in nature photography our focus has shifted towards a deep appreciation of our natural spaces coupled with a burning desire to help conserve and educate.  February is no longer just Groundhog Day for us, it is also, and more importantly, World Wetlands Day!!!

WWD first began in 1997 and marks the date of the signing of the Convention on Wetlands back in 1971 at the Ramsar Convention in Iran.  The Ramsar Convention was put together to address global concerns regarding the loss and degradation of the worlds wetlands.  Its mission is "the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world."  Ramsar's list of wetlands of international importance now include 1,888 sites from all over the world.  I am proud to say that Canada has the greatest area of listed wetlands in the world with over 130,000 square kilometers, which represents approximately 25% of the worlds wetlands!!!

On a scientific level wetlands are defined as areas of land where the soil is saturated with moisture on a permanent or seasonal basis for long enough each year to support aquatic plants.  Wetlands include lakes, rivers, swamps, marshes, wet grasslands, peatlands, oases, estuaries, detlas, tidal flats, near shore marine areas, mangroves, coral reefs and man made sites such as fish ponds, rice paddies, reservoires and salt pans. Wetlands are considered the most biologically diverse of all ecosystems because they include an abundance of plant life and wildlife.  

Wetlands play a major role when considering our environment and climate change.  Wetlands help abate pollution through their natural ability to sink and retain carbon.  When these areas are destroyed for the purpose of development the stored carbon is expelled into the atmosphere.  It is estimated that 7% of the worlds carbon dioxide emissions comes from this.  

Water is one of the most important environmental issues of our time and wetlands play a major role in this as they are natural water purification systems.  Nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen enter our water systems because of agriculture and industry.  Research indicates that sediments and organisms that live in wetlands trap, breakdown and absorb these nutrients.  Wetlands also filter, trap and absorb harmful bacteria, trap sediment and lessen the impact of erosion.

Sadly, by 1993 over half of the worlds wetlands have been drained.  I think Dave Matthews hit the nail right on the head with the lyrics from his song Before These Crowded Streets, "progress takes away what forever took to find."  I couldn't of said it better myself!!  Happy World Wetlands Day everyone! :)