Students from Hallsville Intermediate participated in planting native plants and walking the nature trail at the Port Jefferson History and Nature Center on February 12, 2015. Students were actively involved with hands-on, engaging activities as part of their participation in the Paddlefish Reintroduction Education Initiative. Students, teachers, and volunteers also traveled on the Jefferson Historic Train through the newly recognized “wet lands” area with a stop to visit the alligator enclosure. Facts about historic Jefferson and the natural eco-system along the Big Cypress Bayou and a World Wetlands Day presentation were included in the day’s activities.
Latest research shows that 64% of wetlands worldwide have been lost since 1900, and that 76% of populations of freshwater plants and animals have disappeared in the last 40 years alone (according to the WWF’s Living Planet report), which is worse than any other ecosystem. To combat the downward global trends in loss and degradation of wetlands, Ramsar works with governments and conservation organizations as well as bringing in private sector and scientific expertise.
“Wetlands for our future” – this year’s theme for World Wetlands Day – seeks to highlight the varieties of ways in which wetlands provide for us all, and the many ways that we can all contribute to their conservation and restoration.
Wetlands are the source of most of our water and additionally wetlands feed humanity: rice, grown in wetland paddies, is the staple diet of nearly three billion people. The average human consumes 19 kg of fish each year. And most of the fish sold, breed and raise their young in coastal waters and estuaries. Moreover, 70% of all fresh water extracted globally is used for crop irrigation.
Wetlands purify and filter harmful waste from water, helping to absorb harmful fertilizers and pesticides, as well as heavy metals and toxins from industry.
Wetlands act as nature’s shock absorbers: peatlands and wet grasslands in river basins act as natural sponges, absorbing rainfall, creating wide surface pools that ease any flooding in rivers. The same storage capacity will also safeguard against the impact of drought.
Wetlands provide sustainable livelihoods and products: 61.8 million people depend directly on fishing and fisheries for a living. Timber for building, vegetable oil, medicinal plants, animal fodder, and stems and leaves for weaving also comes from our wetlands.
And importantly for our future, wetlands help to fight climate change. Peatlands alone store twice as much carbon as all the world’s forests combined, and in the face of rising sea levels, coastal wetlands reduce the impact of hurricanes and tsunamis. They also bind the shoreline and resist erosion.
The Ramsar Convention, the world’s oldest environmental convention signed in 1971 in Ramsar, Iran, brings together 168 countries with a shared mission to ensure the wise use of wetlands, and has a proven track record in working with individual countries, private sector companies and non-governmental organizations to protect and restore wetlands for global water security.
Caddo Lake is a dedicated Ramsar Wetland of international importance.