We must do more to protect our wetlands
Next Sunday, February 2 is World Wetlands Day and on that day we are all invited to celebrate our great wealth of wetlands heritage. World Wetlands Day is celebrated on February 2 each year because that date is the anniversary of the adapting of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance on February 2, 1971.
And since that intergovernmental convention was adapted in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shore of the Caspian Sea it is popularly known as 'the Ramsar Convention' or simply 'Ramsar'.
The Ramsar secretariat is based in Switzerland and the team's global mission is the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. Members of the secretariat team have produced a wide range of guidance documents on best practice in the conservation and wise use of wetlands.
To date, the convention has the support of 168 contracting parties and 2,170 sites around the world have been classified 'Ramsar sites'. The Irish government ratified the convention in 1985 and we have 45 Ramsar sites in Ireland.
Wetlands is a pretty broad umbrella term as it includes such diverse habitats as lakes, rivers, swamps, marshes, wet grasslands, peatlands, estuaries, tidal flats, near-shore marine areas and human-made sites like reservoirs.
So how are we doing at protecting our wetlands? 'Must try harder' is probably the appropriate comment to go on our report-card. The present conservation status of many of our finest wetlands is poor. Significant challenges need to be addressed to achieve good ecological status. More resources and a much greater commitment will be required if progress is to be made.
The Ramsar team chose 'Wetlands and Agriculture' as the World Wetlands Day theme for 2014. Wetlands, drainage, reclamation and water quality are often intimately linked with agriculture so the focus this year is on the need for the wildlife, wetland, water and agricultural sectors to come together and to work together for the best shared outcomes.
As far as the ordinary citizen is concerned, World Wetlands Day presents an opportunity to pay a visit to a local wetland, be it a riverside walk, lake shore or the seashore, to enjoy the amenity and to consider how best to make a personal contribution to conserving wetlands.
One way every concerned citizen can contribute is by joining any of the environmental organisations that campaign for the protection and conservation of our natural heritage in general and our wetland heritage resources in particular.
They need your support.