Wetlands battle extreme weather

World Wetlands Day celebrates our best natural defence against natural disasters

Tomorrow a groggy groundhog will wake from its slumber to predict what the rest of the season has in store. But whatever the forecast, Canadians will be bracing themselves. The frequency of extreme weather is on the rise. Fortunately, some of the best natural defences are right outside our doors. They’re Canada’s wetlands.

February 2 is World Wetlands Day. While often overshadowed by furry marmots, it’s an event observed annually around the globe. This year, as many communities begin preparing for potential spring flooding, the theme of disaster risk reduction is fitting.

“Wetlands are one of the best ways we can minimize damage from disasters,” says Karla Guyn, CEO for Ducks Unlimited Canada.  “Wetlands reduce the severity of flooding and drought by holding excess water during wet periods and slowly releasing it during dry periods. Wetlands also act as coastal buffers, protecting against storm surges and rising sea levels.”

By conserving wetlands across the country, Ducks Unlimited Canada helps make communities more resilient to extreme weather and natural disasters. These wetlands also make the environment healthier and more biodiverse. Wetlands play a critical role in protecting water quality by filtering harmful pollutants before they reach our lakes and rivers. They also store carbon and provide hundreds of species of wildlife with the habitat they need to survive.

“Canada is home to 25 per cent of the world’s wetlands,” says Guyn. “This is both a privilege and responsibility. World Wetlands Day reminds all Canadians of the critical role they play in our lives – and the need to conserve them.”

Even though wetland conservation is important for the health and safety of all Canadians, wetlands are under threat. Up to 80 acres (32 hectares) are lost every day. This is the equivalent of about 45 soccer fields every 24 hours.

About World Wetlands Day: February 2nd marks the adoption of the Convention of Wetlands, which took place in 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar. It’s a treaty negotiated by countries and non-governmental organizations, which provides the framework for the conservation and wise use of wetlands. Canada is one of the treaty’s 169 contracting parties and currently has 37 designated Ramsar sites. Of these, 17 are national wildlife areas or migratory bird sanctuaries.

About Ducks Unlimited Canada: Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) is the leader in wetland conservation. A registered charity, DUC partners with government, industry, non-profit organizations and landowners to conserve wetlands that are critical to waterfowl, wildlife and the environment.