By the Muskoka Watershed Council
World Wetlands Day is celebrated every year on February 2 to raise global awareness about the value of wetlands for humanity and the planet. It also marks the date of adoption of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar. World Wetlands Day was celebrated for the first time in 1997.
Wetlands for Disaster Risk Reduction is the theme for World Wetlands Day in 2017. Wetlands play an important role in reducing the impact of extreme weather events such as floods and droughts, both of which are being experienced in Muskoka with increasing frequency.
Wetlands act as a natural sponge, absorbing and storing excess rainfall and reducing flooding. During the dry season, they release the water stored, delaying the onset of droughts and reducing water shortages.
The frequency of natural hazards has more than doubled in the past 35 years, and the majority are climate and weather related. According to UN Water, 90 per cent of all natural hazards are water-related. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts even more extreme events going forward as a result of climate change.
However, most of us are largely unaware of how wetlands safeguard us. In fact, we often see wetlands as wasteland; something to be filled in or converted to other uses. Scientists estimate that at least 64 per cent of the world’s wetlands have disappeared since 1900.
In Muskoka, the Big East River is a great example of a wetland area that acts to reduce the impacts of flooding downstream. The river meanders, which has created a wide, silted floodplain with many wetland areas. In the event of a flood event, flood waters can spread out in the floodplain and be stored over a wide area, reducing damage downstream.
Learn more about World Wetlands Day, how wetlands help us cope with extreme weather events, and what you can do to protect your local wetlands at www.worldwetlandsday.org. Learn more about wetlands in Muskoka on the Muskoka Watershed Council website at www.muskokawatershed.org and follow MWC on Facebook and Twitter.
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