by Allison Cheng
Charleston Slough, Mountain View
Why Do Wetlands Matter?
Today’s public opinions on wetlands are as diverse as the plant and animal species they shelter. Opponents of wetlands may believe they have little to no value. By spreading disease, being breeding grounds for mosquitos, and occupying potential housing space, many argue for the development of these ecosystems. However, wetlands have unprecedented value for humans and as harbingers of biodiversity.
Wetlands, particularly swamps and marshes, are one of the most ecologically productive ecosystems globally, meaning they generate organic matter the fastest. Due to the wide range of temperatures, salinity, and vegetation they can possess, wetlands allow for many different species, from the two-centimeter-tall salt marsh harvest mouse to six-foot-long bat rays. Thousands of flora and fauna species across the globe depend on wetlands for food, water, shelter, breeding, and migration. Not just a variety of plants and animals, including mammals, birds, insects, fish, and amphibians, but fungi, bacteria, archaea, and protists as well. In addition to providing ideal habitat, wetlands help humans out by naturally improving water quality and controlling floods and erosion. Plus, they are a source of natural products, such as seafood, timber, recreation, and beauty.
Despite their benefits, wetlands are disappearing three times faster than forests. Overpopulation, human construction and development, invasive species, pollution, and climate change threaten the future of wetlands and the biodiversity they provide. Luckily, wetlands conservation efforts are being made, including the celebration of World Wetlands Day.
What is World Wetlands Day?
Celebrated annually on February 2nd by environmentalists across the globe, World Wetlands Day aims to raise international awareness of the critical role wetlands play on Earth and promote their conservation. The date, February 2nd, marks the anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance in 1971.
This year’s theme is Wetlands Action for People and Nature, which aims to emphasize the importance of actions to ensure wetlands conservation and sustainable use. As the global population, projected to reach 10 billion by 2050, grows dramatically, so will our need for water, which has already grown scarce. However, the increased awareness and action for wetlands protection brought by World Wetlands Day can allow us to support sustainable water management and increased availability of water for all.
“Why Are Wetlands Important?” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 31 Mar. 2021, https://www.epa.gov/wetlands/why-are-wetlands-important.
“World Wetlands Day 2022.” ICRI, International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI), 16 Dec. 2021, https://www.icriforum.org/events/world-wetlands-day-2022/#:~:text=The%20theme%20for%20the%202022,are%20conserved%20and%20sustainably%20used.“World Wetlands Day 2022.” UNEP, UN Environment Program, https://www.unep.org/events/un-day/world-wetlands-day-2022.