World Wetlands Day is celebrated globally every year on 2 February, so this year it falls on Sunday of this week. The event is an initiative of the Standing Committee of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.
The Ramsar Convention is an intergovernmental treaty for the conservation and wise use of wetlands. The convention is named after the city of Ramsar in Iran on the shores of the Caspian Sea, where it was signed on 2 February 1971. World Wetlands Day is the annual commemoration to mark the date of the adoption of the convention.
Since it was adopted on 2 February 1971 forty-nine years ago, 171 countries have become contracting parties to the convention, designating 2,331 Ramsar sites covering an area of some 250 million hectares of wet places.
Each year, World Wetlands Day has a specific theme. This year, the theme is 'Wetland biodiversity: Why it matters'. Wetland biodiversity matters because wetlands support a great diversity of wildlife and since the world is experiencing a loss of biodiversity at an alarming and unprecedented rate, the conservation of wetlands is of major importance.
Although still covering a global area almost as large as Greenland, wetlands are declining rapidly with 35% losses recorded since 1970 where data are available. As a result, wetland plants and animals are in crisis, with a quarter of species at risk of extinction.
The quality of remaining wetlands is also suffering due to lack of appreciation of their heritage value, drainage, pollution, invasive species, unsustainable use, disrupted flow regimes and climate change.
Part of the problem is that in the past many wetlands were seen as unproductive land, areas that were, as the saying of the time went, "Good for nothing but wildlife"! The popular view was that these areas needed to be drained and made 'productive'. Fortunately, that misguided view has changed with policy makers and we are now encouraged to embrace and value our wetlands.
The Ramsar Convention entered into force in Ireland on 15 March 1985 and, to date, Ireland currently has 45 Ramsar sites covering an area of 66,994 hectares. For further information about these important sites, about World Wetlands Day 2020 and about the Ramsar Convention in Ireland visit http://irishwetlands.ie/world-wetlands-day-2020/.
And do consider visiting your local wetland on Sunday 2 February, or on another day at your convenience, to celebrate both wetlands and World Wetlands Day and to enjoy contact with the natural world.