January 31, 2020

World Wetlands Day 2020 – wetland biodiversity and why it matters

Posted by Laura Guertin

February 2nd is World Wetlands Day. This annual celebration began back in 1997 to raise global awareness about the vital role of wetlands for people and our planet. There is a different theme determined each year, with the 2020 theme of Wetlands and biodiversity.

The connection between wetlands and biodiversity is a critical one that needs urgent attention, according to the International Organization Partners to the Convention on Wetlands. In an open letter, these six organizations state that “2020 is a crunch year for the biodiversity and climate emergencies.” They recognize that, “While many efforts to boost plant and animal species with the restoration of habitats are ongoing, they are still inadequate, underlining the need for better integration of conservation and operational plans to ensure greater progress. Conservation plans must go beyond protected areas, and greater efforts and investments are needed for species recovery and re-introduction.”

The organizaiton partners encourage everyone to consider a more ambitious global biodiversity framework and adopt measures like those outlined in the Emergency Recovery Plan (ERP) published in the journal BioScience by Tickner et al. (2020). The article outlines six priority actions to curb freshwater biodiversity loss, including:

  1. Accelerating implementation of environmental flows,
  2. Improving water quality,
  3. Protecting and restoring critical habitats,
  4. Managing exploitation of freshwater species and riverine aggregates,
  5. Preventing and controlling non-native species invasions, and
  6. Safeguarding and restoring river connectivity.

There is plenty of information about wetlands found online, from NOAA to the EPA to the USGS, and organizations working to help wetlands, such as The Wetlands Initiative to Wetlands International. Rutgers University has compiled a list of wetlands associations and organizations.

So the question is… what can each of us do to celebrate World Wetlands Day? What can we share with our students, and what actions can we take to help raise awareness and acknowledge the importance of wetlands for our planet?