Did you know that once upon a time wetlands were considered wastelands?
A lot has changed since then. Today, they hold high importance globally and are protected under international treaty to ensure wise use for sustainable development.
Having just celebrated World Wetlands Day, I thought this would be a great topic to showcase the interconnection of Global Goal 14: Life Below Water & Global Goal 15: Life on Land.
“A Wetland is a meeting area where Water and Land become one” ~ Romain
As you might know or have guessed, they are plots of land saturated in water. Land submerged under water is either seasonal or year round. Wetlands are identified by plants adaptable to saturated soil conditions caused by water at or near the surface.
The soil type is referred to as hydric, caused by reduced oxygen exchange. Plants which can live and thrive in these wet conditions are called aquatic or hydrophytic.
It’s important to consider that you may look at a dry plot of land in the middle of summer; however come spring, water is present and the entire landscape changes. You’ll want to make note of these areas to ensure you tread very lightly, or not at all, as you may disturb the natural vegetation.
There are many different types of wetlands containing either fresh or saltwater. Some of the more common names you’ll hear are:
- Bogs; and
Wetlands are helpful in many ways; here are just a few of them:
- Home to many unique and endangered species creating a safe breeding ground for them;
- Wetlands replenish and clean groundwater;
- Helpful buffer against storms and protect against flooding; and
- Prevents erosion on shorelines.
That last point being particularly important, especially in areas with heavy concentration of paved surfaces. City developers want to work with existing wetlands and do their very best not to interfere with this unique ecosystem when building. Removal or draining of wetlands will result in costly consequences, especially when natural disasters occur. It is also very harmful to the biodiversity and natural habitats which exist within these areas.
Some people still believe this type of land has little value and can be developed on. While others are defending the extreme importance of these very unique ecosystems.
In fact, because wetlands have so many benefits, conservation support comes from more than one interest group. Think of the last time you heard news about wetlands, there was likely a diverse crowd of stakeholders speaking up on the issue. Take for example the Ontario Phragmites Working Group (OPWG); they are working to protect wetlands to mitigate the spread of an invasive species which can create havoc on the shorelines and landscapes surrounding the Great Lakes.
Check out this short Q&A about the Threats to the Great Lakes Wetlands to learn more.
The Global Goals series of blogs is nearing completion; I hope you’ve found the information helpful in better understanding a worldwide initiative for sustainable development. Throughout many of the posts, I’ve made reference to the interconnections of goals and targets, as well as the importance of finding leverage points. Wetlands are leverage points and one of the Earth’s greatest natural infrastructures; let’s not let them go to waste.
“No Sustainable Development Goals unless action is taken to reduce the deficit in natural infrastructure” ~ Jane Madgwick