What is the state of wetlands?
Wetlands will be celebrated on second of February during the World Wetlands day. We will have an opportunity to appreciate important roles played by them. It’s also a time to reflect on the damages, losses and wetland conservation necessities.
In Kenya, our theme will be “Wetlands and Climate Change”. Several organisations will be able to help public understand important facts about our disappearing wetlands. And it will be happening at the Rumuruti in Ewaso Narok located in Laikipia County. We will be campaigning for a healthy wetlands hence healthy communities. Get to know how climate change has affected wetlands.
What are wetlands?
They are characterized as having a water table that stands at or near the land surface for a long enough period each year to support aquatic plants.
They include areas such as the marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six metres.
They may incorporate riparian and coastal zones adjacent to the wetlands, and islands or bodies of marine water deeper than six metres at low tide lying within the wetlands.
This is per the Ramsar international wetland conservation treaty.
You can recognize them from other land forms or water bodies primarily by the vegetation that has adapted to wet soil.
Wetlands are as a result of flooding from either rains or groundwater. There are also constructed wetlands that are used to treat water from the sewage, capture excess water form storm water runoff.
Important roles played by wetlands
- Wetlands are very vital in our environments. They help balance several factors that contributes to a healthy environment.
- Constructed wetlands helps to purity waste water /recycle used water. They are used for water treatment. Also accommodate the excess water runoff from events such as the storm water.
- Wetlands are important mitigation tool for climate change. According to the Ramsar Convention. The economic worth of the ecosystem services provided to society by intact, naturally functioning wetlands is frequently much greater than the perceived benefits of converting them to ‘more valuable’ intensive land use – particularly as the profits from unsustainable use often go to relatively few individuals or corporations, rather than being shared by society as a whole.
- They are able to sink carbon, convert greenhouse gases through photosynthesis as well as regulate and store water.
- They purify water through their cycle of sediments and nutrients. Hence balancing terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.
- They are a home to wide biodiversity. This is because of their high number of species present , their small global geographic area,number of species which are endemic to wetlands and their high productivity.
- They provide resources to both humans and animals. As well as offer habitat to a wide variety of living organisms.
- They can act as fire breaks for minor wildfires within their locations.
Products that can be extracted from them
- Salt (produced by evaporating seawater)
- Animal fodder
- Traditional medicines (e.g. from mangrove bark)
- Fibers for textiles
- Dyes and tannins
- Food converted to sweeteners and carbohydrates
Threats facing them
- Human activities that lead to their destruction.
- Developments that use up their space.
- Over-grazing leaving to disappearance of their flora.
- Mining of the minerals deposited on their floors.
- Unsustainable water use. Extraction of excess water from them.
- Water Scarcity due to lack water from either reduced rains or lack of ground water.
- Disruption of wildlife breeding grounds
- Imbalance in sediment load and nutrient filtration
State of wetlands
- Wetlands are declining at a rapid speed around the world.
- Global wetlands loss were at least 33% as of 2009. The greatest wetland loss happened in Asia, but the most serious situation in Europe.
- Natural wetlands have declined while the artificial ones have increased. This is because natural inland wetland is changing
- and generally declining.
- Populations of many wetland-dependent species are declining. Due to the decline and disappearance of their home.
It’s clear and sad to conclude that we may be losing them for good. They are reducing in size and their water capacity is vanishing too. This means that more carbon and greenhouse gases will be left unattended to. Hence making their way into the atmosphere cause depletion of the ozone layer. Whose end product is global warming.
We are also losing endemic species to these areas. These species will get extinct and our future generation will not get an opportunity to meet them.
They do help in purifying water at very low cost. So we will need to artificially purity our water and this is costly. So economically , we will be affected. Not forgetting all the resources, it offers . No more food, minerals, nutrients, etc for us.
Its our responsibility to save them from disappearing by embracing wetlands conservation.