Celebrating World Wetlands Day

This year’s theme shines a spotlight on wetlands as a source of freshwater and encourages actions to restore them and stop their loss.

We are facing a growing freshwater crisis that threatens people and our planet. We use more freshwater than nature can replenish, and we are destroying the ecosystem that water and all life depend on most – Wetlands.

The 2021 campaign highlights the contribution of wetlands to the quantity and quality of freshwater on our planet. Water and wetlands are connected in an inseparable co-existence that is vital to life, our wellbeing and the health of our planet. (World Wetland Day,2021)

World Wetlands Day was started in 1997 to raise awareness around the importance of wetlands and threats to global wetlands. Let us play our part in protecting them.

Herd of elephants captured by Chad Cocking of Tanda Tula

What are wetlands?

Wetlands are the sponges of the earth, they are areas that are covered with water, either seasonally or permanently. The water can be freshwater, such as in rivers, marshes (vleis), floodplains, and swamps, or saltwater, such as estuaries, mangroves, or lagoons.

Why are wetlands important?

Wetlands are highly valuable and important ecosystems and perform many important functions:

  • As mentioned they serve as water “sponges”, soaking up excess water that protects the surrounding environment from the effects of storms and floods.
  • Water is filtered and purified as it flows through the wetland plant life, making it cleaner for drinking.
  • Water is stored in wetlands, so they play a key role in providing water for humans and animals to drink.
  • Wetlands support many species of mammals, birds, fish and insects.
  • Wetlands help balance out the effects of climate change as they serve as carbon “sinks”; this means they absorb a lot of harmful carbon dioxide (a major cause of climate change) from the atmosphere.
Male lion captured by Chad Cocking of Tanda Tula
Urban landscape captured by Stanislav Kondratiev on Pexel.

What can you do?

  • Keep wetlands clean and functional! Pick up litter in and around wetlands and make sure that no toxic chemicals, sewage, fertilizers, or hydrocarbons leak into wetlands either directly or through storm drains.
  • Do not dump, build, or clear vegetation in wetlands.
  • Avoid using toxic chemicals to clean your house. These wash into the water systems and cause plants in wetlands to die.
  • Join a group or program that restores and protects wetlands and then support their events and clean-ups.
  • Report any illegal activities taking place in wetlands, such as dumping of waste, clearing of vegetation, or unauthorized building.
  • Make sure that no alien invasive plants are planted in or near wetlands.
  • Spread the word about the importance of wetlands.
Night heron captured by Frank Cone from Pexel.

Here are some great awareness posters from the World Wetlands Day website: