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The Importance of Wetlands: World Wetlands Day & Climate Change

The Importance of Wetlands: World Wetlands Day & Climate Change

February 2nd is World Wetlands Day; it commemorates the anniversary of the signing of the Convention on Wetlands in 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar. Though the first World Wetlands Day was celebrated in 1997, over the past 18 years, February 2nd has become the day to honor these unique habitats. Wetlands include swamps, marshes and bogs. Wetlands vary widely in soils, topography, climate, hydrology, water chemistry, and vegetation creating homes for many species.

Wetlands are extremely important for adapting to and mitigating climate change. They purify and replenish our water supply, and provide the fish stocks and rice paddies that feed billions of people around the globe. Wetlands act as a natural sponge against flooding and drought, and protect our coastlines. According to Wetlands for Our Future, wetlands “burst with biodiversity, and are a vital means of storing carbon.”

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However, climate change also threats these sensitive ecosystems. Wetlands, and the species which depend on them, are effected by changes in temperature and precipitation. Climate change has already led to sea level rise, warmer temperatures, altered precipitation patterns and increased frequency of extreme weather events. Climate change driven droughts are forecast to affect many wetlands – which are vulnerable to changes in precipitation. Rising sea levels have caused coastal wetlands to flood, erode, and become contaminated with saltwater. Rising temperatures and changes in precipitation have affected the distribution of wetland species, converted some wetlands to dry land or shifted one wetland type to another. For example, black mangroves are expanding their latitudinal range at the expense of coastal saline wetlands dominated by marsh grasses in the Gulf of Mexico.

Wetlands provide a countless benefits to humanity by filtering our water, ensuring biodiversity, protecting our coastlines, and mitigating climate change. Yet scientific estimates show that 64% of the world's wetlands have disappeared since 1900 and the remaining ones are being degraded! Help us turn the tide on the loss and degradation of our wetlands. Join us for World Wetlands Day 2015 – and beyond! Stay connected by using #WorldWetlandsDay #WetlandsForOurFuture on twitter on February 2!

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