LETTER: Today is a day to celebrate vital role of wetlands
Forget about the hairy marmots Phil, Sam and Willie and focus on wetlands which are now disappearing at a rapid rate around the world and in Simcoe County, says Bob Bowles
Photo: Local naturalist Bob Bowles, pictured here at Orillia’s Inch Farm property, encourages people to recognize the importance of wetlands today: World Wetlands Day.
For many years in a less complex world with fewer people and less environmental pressure people in North America recognized Feb. 2 every year as Groundhog Day. It renewed the hope and promise of an early spring after a long winter so the groundhog even with his poor record on predicting the weather gained fame. Today things have changed and now Feb. 2 is known as World Wetlands Day.
Wetlands are amongst the most biologically diverse ecosystems on the planet. There are over 600 Canadian plant, bird, mammal, amphibian, reptile, fish, and insect species that depend on wetland habitat and play a crucial role in their functions.
Surface water is stored and purified by wetlands that also replenish groundwater resources and sequester carbon and impurities. Wetlands are extremely effective in reducing the damaging effects from climate change like flooding since they store and clean the stormwater after heavy rainfalls, then slowly releasing it into the soil.
Scientists and environmentalists began to recognize the great benefits of wetlands over 50 years ago. They gathered back in 1971 to reaffirm their appreciation and protection for wetlands which resulted in the signing of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Convention) held in Ramsar, Iran, a city on the shores of the Caspian Sea, on Feb. 2, 1971.
World Wetlands Day has been used since 1997 to raise public awareness of wetland values and benefits and held on the second day of February each year, the date the convention was signed.
This day was to globally recognize the influence and positive production of wetlands for the benefit of the environment and their significant role in the lives of people plus the plants and many other organisms that can only live in wetlands. However, over time, human construction and greed have led to various ecological problems affecting wetlands.
Overpopulation, construction and politics have led to decreased environmental conservation and protection and increased issues with many wetlands being lost.
Losses from first European settlement in North America were calculated at 70% over 40 years ago but now is well over 80% and as high as 90% in heavily populated areas. The loss of these natural filters and water quality systems is alarming, especially in Ontario where the Conservative government wants to use wetlands as an easy way to make developers rich.
Developers can purchase wetlands at reduced prices and now the Conservatives under Doug Ford, is passing legislation like Bill 23 that weakens wetland protection and scoring plus protection for species at risk that use wetlands as their home.
Biologists at the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry have been taken off wetland protection and development files and conservation authorities staff have been limited in their input on concerns involving housing development on wetlands that would cause increased flooding problems. Recent impacts from climate change have shown us that we need wetlands more than ever now to mitigate impacts like flooding, droughts, fires and extreme weather conditions.
Forget about the hairy marmots Phil, Sam and Willie on Feb. 2 and focus on wetlands which are now disappearing at a rapid rate around the world and in Simcoe County. Speak up for the protection of wetlands and against Bill 23 so that our children and their children may enjoy good health, education and clean water from these wetland habitats.
Happy World Wetland Day everyone!