Every 2nd of February, the world celebrates the International Wetlands Day to re-emphasize the importance of Wetlands in Sustainable Development. This observance was the result of:
“The Ramsar Convention (formally, the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as Waterfowl Habitat). It is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable utilization of wetlands, recognizing the fundamental ecological functions of wetlands and their economic, cultural, scientific, and recreational value. It is named after the city of Ramsar inIran, where the Convention was signed in 1971.” (Source: Wikipedia)
According to the Wikipedia, the convention was developed and adopted by participating nations at a meeting in Ramsar, Mazandaran, Iran, on February 2, 1971, hosted by the Iranian Department of Environment, and came into force on December 21, 1975.
The Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance now includes 2208 Sites (known as Ramsar Sites) covering over 210,734,269.41 ha (520,735,720.3 acres). The country with the highest number of Sites is the United Kingdom at 170 and the country with the greatest area of listed wetlands is Bolivia, with over 140,000 km2 (54,000 sq mi). The Ramsar definition of wetlands is fairly wide, including “areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six meters” as well as fish ponds, rice paddies and salt pans.
Presently there are 169 contracting parties, up from 21 initial signatory nations in 1971. The state parties meet every three years as the Conference of the Contracting Parties (COP), the first held in Cagliari, Italy in 1980. Amendments to the original convention have been agreed to in Paris (in 1982) and Regina (in 1987).
There is a standing committee, a scientific review panel, and a secretariat. The headquarters is located in Gland, Switzerland, shared with the IUCN.
Ramsar works closely with five (5) international organizations:
- Birdlife International
- IUCN – International Union For Conservation of Nature
- IWMI – International Water Management Institute
- Wetlands International
- WWF International – World Wide Fund
The 2016 International Wetlands Day adopted the theme: Wetlands For Our Future Sustainable Livelihoods.
Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramsar_Classification. The poster tells a story. From the mountains to the sea, the wetlands work for humanity – their beauty, diversity, utility. As providers of livelihood opportunities for people in the area and as habitat for plants and animals of diverse types and classes, the Wetlands need protection to make it sustainable, not only for the present but also for the future generations.
So, to better appreciate this day, let us begin by discussing what wetlands is all about.
What are wetlands?
According to Ramsar, wetlands are “areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six meters.” (https:/en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramsar_Convention)
Wetlands also include fish ponds, rice paddies, salt pans, marsh, bog, swamps, morass, quagmire, muskeg, slough, fen, fenland, bayou, and bogland, among others.
Rice paddy at Banaue, Ifugao, Philippines. (Source: The National Geographic)
Wetlands are areas where water covers the soil or is present either at or near the surface of the soil all year or for varying periods of time during the year, including during the growing season. Water saturation (hydrology) largely determines how the soil develops and the types of plant and animal communities living in and on the soil. Wetlands may support both aquatic and terrestrial species. The prolonged presence of water creates conditions that favor the growth of specially adapted plants (hydrophytes) and promote the development of characteristic wetland (hydric) soils.
Wetlands vary widely because of regional and local differences in soils, topography, climate, hydrology, water chemistry, vegetation and other factors, including human disturbance. Indeed, wetlands are found from the tundra to the tropics and on every continent except Antarctica. Two general categories of wetlands are recognized: coastal or tidal wetlands and inland or non-tidal wetlands. (Source: http://www.epa.gov)
What are the Components of Wetlands?
The US Environmental and Protection Agency stated the following as components of wetlands.
- Tidal wetlands in the United States, as their name suggests, are found along the Atlantic, Pacific, Alaskan and Gulf coasts. They are closely linked to our nation’s estuaries where sea water mixes with fresh water to form an environment of varying salinities. The salt water and the fluctuating water levels (due to tidal action) combine to create a rather difficult environment for most plants. Consequently, many shallow coastal areas are unvegetated mud flats or sand flats. Some plants, however, have successfully adapted to this environment. Certain grasses and grasslike plants that adapt to the saline conditions form the tidal salt marshes that are found along the Atlantic, Gulf, and Pacific coasts. Mangrove swamps, with salt-loving shrubs or trees, are common in tropical climates, such as in southern Florida and Puerto Rico. Some tidal freshwater wetlands form beyond the upper edges of tidal salt marshes where the influence of salt water ends.
- Non-Tidal wetlands are most common on floodplains along rivers and streams (riparian wetlands), in isolated depressions surrounded by dry land (for example, playas, basins and “potholes”), along the margins of lakes and ponds, and in other low-lying areas where the groundwater intercepts the soil surface or where precipitation sufficiently saturates the soil (vernal pools and bogs). Inland wetlands include marshes and wet meadows dominated by herbaceous plants, swamps dominated by shrubs, and wooded swamps dominated by trees. (www.epa.gov)
Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park in Palawan is considered by Ramsar as one of the important Wetlands sites in the Philippines. (Source: http://www.pre-tend.com/beautiful-places-to-visit-in-philippines/)
The island of Olango which is part of the province of Cebu is also an important wetland site in the Philippines according to Ramsar. (Source: http://www.beyondcebu.com)
Certain types of inland wetlands are common to particular regions of the country. A full list can be found here.
Many of these wetlands are seasonal (they are dry one or more seasons every year), and, particularly in the arid and semiarid West, may be wet only periodically. The quantity of water present and the timing of its presence in part determine the functions of a wetland and its role in the environment. Even wetlands that appear dry at times for significant parts of the year — such as vernal pools– often provide critical habitat for wildlife adapted to breeding exclusively in these areas. (Source: http://www.epa.gov)
Agusan del Sur Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary. Ramsar identified Agusan del Sur Wetlands as one of the important Ramsar Sites in the Philippines. (Source: https://search.yahoo.com/search?fr=mcafee&type=C211US0D19700101&p=images+of+Agusan+del+sur+Wetlands)
Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary is considered as one of the important Wetland Sites in the Philippines by Ramsar. (Source: s.yimg.com JOJI ALCANTARA Photo.)
Functions & Values of Marshes, Swamps, Bog, Fens, others.
Marshes recharge groundwater supplies and moderate streamflow by providing water to streams. This is an especially important function during periods of drought. The presence of marshes in a watershed helps to reduce damage caused by floods by slowing and storing flood water. As water moves slowly through a marsh, sediment and other pollutants settle to the substrate or floor of the marsh. Marsh vegetation and microorganisms also use excess nutrients for growth that can otherwise pollute surface water such as nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizer. (Source: http://www.epa.gov)
Olango Island Wildlfe Sanctuary in Cebu is also in the list of Ramsar as an important Wetlands in the Philippines. Thank you NILO ARRIBAS, JR. Photo. (Source: ttps://search.yahoo.com/search?fr=mcafee&type=C211US1134D20151124&p=Olango+island%2C+cebu)
Functions & Values of Non-Tidal Marshes and other non-tidal wetlands.
Due to their high levels of nutrients, freshwater marshes are one of the most productive ecosystems on earth. They can sustain a vast array of plant communities that in turn support a wide variety of wildlife within this vital wetland ecosystem. As a result, marshes sustain a diversity of life that is disproportionate to their size. In addition to their considerable habitat value, non-tidal marshes serve to mitigate flood damage and filter excess nutrients from surface runoff. (Source: http://www.epa.gov)
What is the importance of wetlands?
According to EPA the US Environmental Protection Agency through its website – http://www.epa.gov/wetlands/why-are-wetlands-important:
“Wetlands are important features in the landscape that provide numerous beneficial services for people and for fish and wildlife. Some of these services, or functions, include protecting and improving water quality, providing fish and wildlife habitats, storing floodwaters and maintaining surface water flow during dry periods. These valuable functions are the result of the unique natural characteristics of wetlands.
Hereunder is the link to U.S. EPA on the discussion that focuses on restoration and conservation.
Another link stated below refers to the Wetlands Monitoring and Assessment.
This is the Ilog River Estuary where wetlands can also be found. It is located in the southern part of Negros Occidental, Philippines. It is the sanctuary of different species of migratory and native birds, wildlife and home to plants. It also provides livelihood opportunities to the local fisherfolks and farmers. (Source: scienceray.com or http://s3.amazonaws.com/readers/2012/04/11/2_2.jpg)
Observation/Remark. To ensure success in the protection and conservation of wetlands, there is a need for community involvement. Hereunder, a link is provided for you to get some ideas on how a community gets involved in the protection and conservation of their wetlands. This refers to Volunteer Monitoring. It also discusses the importance of community volunteers to monitor the different species of fishes and other animals that make the wetlands their habitat and how they can also be protected.
- Wherever you are situated, your country’s wetlands are an important part of your environment. In it, lies the different species of fishes, wildlife, endangered species of plants and other animals that contribute to a balanced eco-systems. As previously mentioned, the wetlands have enumerable benefits not only to the soil and living organisms that make it their habitat but more importantly to people who benefits from many resources that the wetlands produce.
- As an income generator or livelihood provider, the Wetlands must be protected and conserved so that eco-tourism, fishery, food production, natural beauty of the locality and sustainable development, as a whole, can be achieved.
- For the local community, specifically in Asia and the Philippines, the following programs and projects can be considered to protect and conserve the Wetlands. a) Survey the existing wetlands in your community; b) Identify its inhabitants such as fishes, turtles, birds and other animals, kinds of grasses and other forms of life that depend its existence upon this wetland; c) Identify the different uses of the wetland such as fishing, food production, eco-tourism and many others; d) conduct a strategic planning workshop to identify the existing situation of the wetland, its prospects for the future, the ways and means to achieve and reach this future, and strategies and approaches to its sustainable development; e) Identify and motivate the support of the local community by organizing a group of Local Volunteers for the protection and conservation of the wetland; f) Design a Sustainable Development Plan for the Wetland in cooperation with local community, the local officials, the government, and civil society; g) the local Environment Office should take the lead in organizing a Technical Working Group or a Committee that should implement, monitor, evaluate and sustain all activities.
- You can adopt this motto to make your work effective – “Act locally and think globally” to protect and conserve a more sustainable wetland. If everybody does it locally, imagine what will the effects be to the world because of this local and then global activities. It is immensely great. Right?
The Philippines is the home of five (5) important Wetlands Sites identified by the Ramsar. These are:
- Wildlife Sanctuary, Agusan del Sur
- Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary, Cebu
- Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, Palawan
- Puerto Princesa Subterranean River Natural Park, Palawan
- Las Pinas-Paranaque Critical Habitat and Ecosystem Area.
Other sources mentioned Naujan Lake National Park at Oriental Mindoro. Here is the photo from chendelmundoMD’s site.
This is Naujan Lake National Park at Oriental Mindoro. (Source: flyinstyledaily.blogspot.com)
The Philippine government, the Local Government Units such as the Provinces, Cities and Municipalities are actively involved in the forefront as leaders in the conservation and protection of these wetlands.
In closing, Earthniversity would like to emphasize that there are other activities that the community can think of, implement and monitor in order to achieve the local goals of protecting and conserving the Wetlands.
Earthniversity would like to acknowledge its various sources of information in coming up with this discussion. All sources of materials such as texts and photographs used here have been individually cited. Thank you to you all.
Earthniversity does not own these ideas but cites the different sources of information to come up with a more organized presentation regarding the Wetlands and how the people in the community can help to protect and conserve these Wetlands.
We hope this will be helpful to you. Have a nice day.