Celebrate World Wetland Day February 2

World Wetlands Day commemorates the signing of the Convention on Wetlands on February 2, 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar. This international treaty, now ratified by 158 countries, protects more than 165 million hectares. The world’s largest Ramsar wetland is the 6,278,200 hectare Queen Maude Gulf Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Canada. (See www.ramsar.org) World Wetlands Day is meant to raise public awareness of the acute need to expand a conservation ethic for wetland areas including peatlands that are critical to conserve if only to not allow huge amounts of carbon dioxide to be released.

“The Silver Creek Wetland is an example of a very important coastal wetland. It is in the north-west corner of the Town of Collingwood north of Highway 26 but also extending south of Highway 26 and west into the Town of Blue Mountains. Wetlands are very important for two reasons: first, 70% of southern Ontario’s original wetlands have been lost and second, they provide a unique home for many species that are in danger of extinction. In the Silver Creek Wetland area, five species of reptiles and amphibians have been identified that are either endangered, threatened or of special concern. In addition, there are at least three provincially significant botanical species.”

Don Kerr, for Blue Mountain Watershed Trust

World Wetlands Day commemorates the signing of the Convention on Wetlands on February 2, 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar. This international treaty, now ratified by 158 countries, protects more than 165 million hectares. The world’s largest Ramsar wetland is the 6,278,200 hectare Queen Maude Gulf Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Canada. (See www.ramsar.org) World Wetlands Day is meant to raise public awareness of the acute need to expand a conservation ethic for wetland areas including peatlands that are critical to conserve if only to not allow huge amounts of carbon dioxide to be released.

Each year World Wetlands Day focuses on a global concern: 2007 had “Fish for Tomorrow?; 2008, “Healthy Wetlands, Healthy People and this year we look at the how wetlands affect all of us through “Upstream….Downstream… Wetlands connect Us All”.

Bogs, fens, swamps, rivers, lakes estuaries, peatlands, coastal areas, mangrove forests and coral reefs are all essential for our planet’s biodiversity, water purification, flood control and ground water recharge and climate regulation. They also provide a home for indigenous peoples and wildlife ranging from tigers to crocodiles. In most instances wetlands are one of the last places where development has not started because of its inaccessibility.. Ramsar tries to encourage governments to protect these vital pristine areas.

Peatlands are wetlands that are characterized by the accumulation of organic matter-peat- derived from decaying and dead plant matter that is continuously saturated in water. They will be the subject of another article but by briefly looking now at its relationship to climate change safety we can begin to acknowledge its vast importance here in Canada, and make a difference in protecting it.

Peatlands represent at least one third of all wetlands. While peatlands only cover 3 percent of the Earth’s land area they are the most efficient means of sequestering carbon dioxide in the world. Peatlands have been doing this for thousands of years. We now know that they contain more carbon than any other terrestrial biomass, twice as much as all forest biomass and about the same as the atmosphere. Only the oceans sequester more carbon! Unfortunately peatlands across the world are being degraded. When they are drained large emissions of carbon dioxide are emitted. The melting of permafrost peatlands and the desertification of steppe peatlands are already visible. Vast fires are now common in Indonesia and elsewhere. Ten percent of all global fuel emissions are now being caused by the destruction of peatlands.

In our country and the United States it is the commodification of peat that is a major problem. We use peat moss (sphagnum) for pots, mulch, lawns, amending heavy soils and for water retention, but peat moss is essentially a nonrenewable resource as it takes around two thousand years to produce a meter of peat! There are alternatives that can help us restore our Canadian bogs. Fallen leaves, straw, weathered saw dust, grass clippings, compost, coir and farm land manure are all renewable. They can be obtained at little cost and retain more nutrients than peat. Use coconut coir which is a byproduct of coconut fiber in place of peat pots or make your own pots with newspaper.

Our area will be celebrating World Wetlands Day by going over to Silver Creek Wetlands on February 2 at 3:30 PM; join us on highway 26 and Princeton Shores to look at this wetland that is threatened by development. Although ongoing negotiations with a developer and the Town of Collingwood are hopefully going to bring about the protection for much of Silver Creek, residents need to be vigilant. For those who are interested in celebrating World Wetlands Day by visiting the Wye March on February 2, please call them at 705 526-7809 to learn more about their celebration.

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