World Wetlands Day: Preserving the Future
Lauren Luerkens (2023-24 Iowa UNA College Ambassador from the University of Iowa)
February 2nd is World Wetlands Day, which is a day the UN recognizes to “raise global awareness about the vital role of wetlands for people and the planet”. This day provides a great opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of wetlands and advocate for their protection across the world.
The history of this day began with the adoption of an international treaty, the Convention on Wetlands on February 2nd, 1971. As of today, there are 172 countries that participate in the Convention. Before this, the environmental movement had been on the rise, as people were increasingly noticing the negative effects of pollution. Wetlands had been drained to make room for development or agriculture.
Preserving wetlands provides invaluable ecosystem and economic benefits to everything and anyone that inhabits the earth. Wetlands provide carbon sequestration, a place where floodwaters can overflow, habitats for wildlife, and improved water quality to name a few. There are also economic benefits such as harvesting fish and shellfish, recreational activities, resources can be used for medicinal purposes, and wetlands can provide preventions to save on the cost of cleaning water.
Wetlands are in danger. About 35% of wetlands have been destroyed since the 1970s. The recent Supreme Court case, Sackett v. EPA, has taken away the protections in place to keep waters clean and limits wetland protections by extending the Clean Water Act to only wetlands that have a continuous surface connection to an established body of water. The increasing disappearance of wetlands and removal of protections contribute to the major loss of biodiversity across the world. The good news is that there has been government action on preserving wetlands. There were multiple meetings in 2022 such as the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and the United Nations Biodiversity Conference, that reached agreements to put in place protections for wetlands.
This World Wetlands Day, please take a moment to reflect on the many benefits received from the environment around you. You can take action on a personal level by connecting with your local environmental organization to create an advocacy effort encouraging your local government to include wetland protections in local laws. Other actions are included in the World Wetlands Day 2024 Campaign Toolkit.