World Wetlands Day is February 2nd. What is World Wetlands Day? It's a special day used to raise global awareness about the value of wetlands for humanity and the planet. This year's theme is Wetland for Disaster Risk Reduction. You may be asking yourself what that means. You see, wetlands have an importatn role in reducing the impact of extreme weather events. This can include floods, droughts, and cyclones.
Some people see wetlands as a wasteland, but this isn't true. The people are just misinformed. Wetlands actually safeguard us. Wetlands act as a natural sponge. They absorb and store excess rainfall and reduce flooding. When the dry season hits, these wetlands release this stored water and it helps put off droughts and water shortages. And along the coastlines, wetlands act as a natural buffer. Wetlands also help speed up the recovery when a disaster hits. They act as a natural water filter and they restore nutrients. This is why maintaining healthy wetlands and restoring degraded ones are so important.
Different wetlands help in different ways. Mangroves are shrubs and trees that grow in shallow, tropical coastal waters. They reduce storm surges from hurricanes/cyclones and tsunamis. They also store carbon dioxide which helps fight climate change. Coral reefs are found in shallow tropical waters and they act as off short wave barriers. Rivers and flood plains act as giant reservoirs. Inland deltas are a natural safeguard against droughts. Peatlands are water saturated lands containing decomposed plant material. They store twice as much carbon dioxide as all of the world's forests combined. The peatland cover 3% of the earth's land surface.
64% of all wetlands have disappeared since 1900. Humans have turned rivers into canals, cleared mangroves for the shrimp industry. They have mined coral reefs and drained and filled in wetlands for agriculture. People have also burned and drained peatlands, releasing CO2 in large quantities.
By now you may be wondering how you can help save the wetlands. Pick up garbage that may be blocking the waterways. Ask your government to protect wetlands. Restore wetlands that have been destroyed. Work to find a way to offer a sustainable way for agriculture and fisheries. Keep toxic products from running off into the wetlands (see the Chesapeake Bay as an example). And don't forget to become an advocate/wetland ambassador for the Earth's wetlands. Together, we CAN make a difference. So this February 2nd, please take some time out of your day to organize a wetland clean up, contact your local, state, or government officials or educate others on the importance of saving our wetlands!
If you are interested in having a program about wetlands on World Wetlands Day or any other time of the year, we offer online/virtual classes!
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