Water is a highly essential resource for continued prosperity of life on earth. Without water, we can’t survive. Water is used for drinking, agriculture, sanitation, recreation, transportation, and even for generating electricity. There is a wide range of water bodies ranging from lakes, streams, rivers, and oceans. One of these water bodies is also wetlands.
What are Wetlands?
Wetlands are water bodies or ‘land covered by water’ that house various important species. They consist of a diverse ecosystem and act as a waste-water treatment facility for the organisms living within them. It is estimated that roughly 400 million people live near to a wetland, which supports cultivation for various crops such as rice and staple. Wetlands are essential in providing clean drinking water, flood control, medicines, materials, and act as a habitat for various organisms.
Wetlands have been continuously reducing since 1900s and WWF is working on ways to conserve and protect these valuable habitats.
Here, we will be looking at 20 facts on wetlands that even I didn’t know!
20 Facts on Wetlands and their importance!
1.Wetlands are mostly covered by water
As the name suggests, most of the wetlands are covered by water ranging from fresh, salty or somewhere in between. For a place to be considered as a wetland, it must be soaked or filled with water for a good duration of the year.
2. No wetlands in Antarctica
Wetlands can be found throughout the world, existing on every continent on the planet except Antarctica. The extreme weather conditions found in Antarctica are unable to support wetlands.
3.Biological Diversity of Wetlands is Supreme
Wetlands are considered to be one of the most diverse biomes in the world. This diversity is mostly because the biomes are humid and moist throughout the year; providing a perfect place for many species to live. They are a suitable feeding ground and habitat for countless species. The decomposition of organic material provides nutrition for all inhabitants thus maintaining a healthy food-chain and food web within the ecosystem.
4. Wetlands act as Survival Ground for Birds
Around 150 different species of birds including the geese, kingfishers, ducks, ibises, and sandpipers depend on these wetlands for their survival. For example, up to 80% of all the birds breeding in America require wetlands. Birds may permanently adopt wetlands as their primary habitat and may migrate from one habitat to another.
5. Llanos de Moxos is the world’s largest protected wetland.
The world’s largest protected wetland is the Llanos de Moxos in Bolivia. It is greater than 17 million acres (roughly the size of North Dakota) and borders Peru, Brazil, and Bolivia.
Like other wetlands, Llanos de Moxos is extremely bio-diverse; housing 60 amphibians, 100 reptiles, 565 birds, 625 fish, and more than 1,000 plant species. Other large wetlands situated in the world include The West Siberian Lowland, Amazon River Basin, and Hudson Bay Lowland.
6. The World’s largest wetlands are the Pantanal
The Pantanal is the largest wetland covering an area between 54,000 and 75,000 square miles. It extends across Paraguay, Brazil, and Bolivia receiving runoff from the surrounding highlands; eventually discharging into the Paraguay River.
7. Wetlands act as Natural Water filters
Wetlands can act as natural filters that purify water. They are also regarded as the kidneys of the earth’s ecosystem. During rainfall, Wetlands can absorb fertilizers in runoff from agricultural land; thereby preventing eutrophication and also halting the development of dead zones in water bodies.
Wetlands can remove more than 60% of metals found in water and convert the dissolved nitrogen into nitrogen gas. They do this mainly through percolation of the soil and the uptake of the substance by plants found in these wetlands.
8. Wetlands can be used by municipalities for waste-water treatment
We have already discussed how wetland act as natural water filter for the earth and considering this, municipalities can use it to their advantage for waste-water treatment. They are already being used by many due to their low cost, convenience, and effectiveness. Municipalities are converting pre-existing wetlands for their waste-water treatment plants to purify wastewater.
9. A wetland has multiple Sub-Types
Wetlands can take many shapes and forms such as mangroves, ponds, swamps, lagoons, lakes, and floodplains. These different types of wetlands are found close to each other within an already large wetland area.
10. 19,500 species depend on wetlands for survival!
We have already mentioned that wetland consists of the most diverse ecosystem on the planet. This means that a lot of species depends on the presence of wetlands for their survival. They accommodate more than 19,500 animal and plant species.
11. The Ramsar Convention which protects wetlands was started in 1971.
Ramsar convention is an international treaty for the protection of wetlands which was established more than 40 years ago in 1971. Today, as a result of it, more than 2,000 wetlands have been given the status of ‘Wetlands of International Importance’. Thanks to the continued effort of the WWF, 75% of these wetland sites have been added since 1999.
12. Wetlands Store of 1/3 of the World’s Carbon
The carbon-capturing ability of wetlands is amazing, given the fact that they cover a very small portion of the earth. Wetlands can store up to 50 times more carbon than rainforests, which means only with covering 3% of the planet they can store one-third of the world’s total carbon.
13. World’s Wetlands Day
2nd February is celebrated as the World’s Wetlands day globally to raise awareness and significance of the wetlands around the world.
14. Wetlands occur where Water meets Land
It is a proven fact that wetlands are found where water meets lands and they serve as a link between the land and water.
15. Wetlands attract majority of tourists in Africa
African wetland ecosystem covers an area of 131 million hectares which include peatlands, flooded forests, rice-fields, river basins, and mangroves. These wetlands, much like others support life and also provide recreational opportunities to humans, thereby increasing tourism.
You can also read on How Tourism Affects the Environment?
16. Half of the earth’s wetlands exist within Peatlands
Peatlands include tundra, peat swamp forests, moors, mires, and bogs. Half of the earth’s wetlands exist within Peatlands. They are found throughout the world but are most common in African countries. Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo are the countries having the largest areas of peatland.
17. Wetlands are the main ecosystems in the Arctic region
Wetlands account for 60% of the Arctic’s total surface area. This is vital as they maintain global diversity. This helps in offering unique habitats for animals and plants, harboring an irreplaceable breeding and feeding ground for them. Wetlands are also a major source of livelihood for the locals living there; relying on rainfall, fishing, hunting, and lands for grazing.
18. Wetlands Prevent Floods – and Natural Disasters
Wetlands can collect and store water, this is essential as it prevents flooding. They act like a sponge, soaking and storing all the excessive water nearby thus reducing the risk of flooding. EPA states that 1.5 million gallons of floodwater can be stored in just an acre of wetland.
This allows rivers to stay at normal water levels and reduces the risk of any potential natural disasters from occurring in future, such as typhoons or hurricanes.
Don’t get me wrong, Wetlands don’t prevent hurricanes or storms as such. Wetlands break the energy of waves as they hit the tidal wetland barriers. This stops high-energy waves from getting much further inland and damaging property.
19. Reverses Climate Change
Climate change is a major issue faced by the planet and its effects are becoming more and more visible in the form of natural disasters (Increased frequency, you may have noticed).
Wetlands have a great capacity for storing carbon. This keeps greenhouse gases at bay, reducing the greenhouse effect and thus, fights climate change. This impact of wetlands on climate change has increased its value among countries and further efforts are being carried out for preservation of wetlands.
20. Wetlands are under constant threats!
Although wetlands are a valuable ecosystem, providing benefits to every living creature on the planet. Like other biomes, wetlands are also facing threats of extinction. These threats include a wide range of pollution activities, climate change, agriculture, and the development of dams.
WWF is working hard for these wetlands to be preserved through various projects which support the Ramsar Convention. Additionally WWF has been raising awareness about the importance and necessity of wetlands. Efforts are ongoing, but more work needs to be done if we are to prevent further disappearance of this valuable habitat.