February 2nd is World Wetlands Day! World Wetlands Day is an environmentally related celebration which dates back to the year 1971 when several environmentalists gathered to reaffirm the protection for wetlands.
What are wetlands?
A wetland is an area saturated with water. Wetlands are an ecosystem of the prairies that cover half of the province and can also be found in the boreal forest, making them a defining feature of Saskatchewan’s natural habitat.
Wetlands (muskeg) in the boreal forests hold cultural significance for Indigenous Peoples in Saskatchewan. They provide food, lumber, and traditional medicine for many rural Indigenous communities.
What are the benefits of wetlands?
Did you know wetlands are some of nature’s best carbon sinks? Meaning they have the ability to store large amounts of carbon. Peatlands such as fens, bogs and swamps are especially efficient carbon stores due to the high amount of organic soil found within them. In Saskatchewan, it’s estimated that 1.56 billion tons of CO2 are stored in the area around the Saskatchewan River Delta alone! Of that 1.56 billion tons, 868.95 tons of carbon was stored in the wetlands of the Meewasin Valley!
Are wetlands in danger?
Though it is amazing how much carbon is stored in wetlands, but this can be dangerous if the wetlands are disturbed. When a wetland is disturbed, methane and CO2 are released into the atmosphere. CO2 is also released from wetlands when it is disrupted during construction, so it’s important to only do this when absolutely necessary. Approximately 70 per cent of wetlands have been lost in southern areas of Canada- and up to 95 per cent in densely populated areas. Canada may be losing wetlands faster than it’s documenting them. According to Ducks Unlimited Canada studies the direct and indirect impacts of wetland loss on biodiversity, natural resources, carbon sequestration and the economy. The past summer, the Prairies suffered from one of the worst droughts in memory.
What can we do?
Knowledge is power! Raising national and global awareness about wetlands is a way to decrease and eventually end the rapid loss of wetlands and encourage actions to conserve and restore them. World Wetlands Day is the ideal time to increase people’s understanding of these critically important ecosystems.
Farmer, E. (2020), Wetlands. Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society Saskatchewan Chapter. https://cpaws-sask.org/wetlands/
Kaumeyer, L. (2022), What’s happening to Canada’s vanishing wetlands? Without a proper inventory, we won’t truly know. Conserving Canada’s Wetlands. https://www.ducks.ca/stories/wetlands/whats-happening-to-canadas-vanishing-wetlands/
World Wetlands Day. United Nations. https://www.un.org/en/observances/world-wetlands-day