If you’ve ever seen a green darner dragonfly up close, it’s brilliant. Its emerald-green thorax and blue abdomen are vibrant next to its shimmering, iridescent wings. It’s amazing to realize this creature and its offspring completed a migration of more than 1,400 kilometres while travelling from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Today, the perils of its journey are something we all must pay attention to.
You’re forgiven if dragonflies don’t immediately come to mind when thinking about migratory species. In Canada, awesome seasonal spectacles of waterfowl, songbirds and butterflies take up most of the room in our mind’s eye. But dragonflies have been travelling the world for more than 300 million years, even predating dinosaurs. Highly sensitive to changes in the environment, their welfare has become an important indicator of the overall health of wetland ecosystems where they live and breed.
So, when the International Union for Conservation of Nature announced that 16 per cent of the world’s dragonfly and damselfly species are now at risk of extinction, it set off alarm bells. Citing widespread wetland loss as the leading cause of population declines, the message was loud and clear. Biodiversity losses will continue without more action to protect wetlands.
The reason is simple. Wetlands provide habitat for an incredible 40 per cent of the world’s species. What befalls one befalls another, which increases the risk of “extinction cascades” where an initial species loss leads to a domino effect of further extinctions. As global rates of biodiversity loss reach levels not seen since the last mass extinction, we have good reason to take heed of the dragonfly’s warning.
What does this mean for Canada? While most of Canada’s dragonfly species—like our familiar green darner—are not currently in trouble, we’d be fooling ourselves if we thought there was nothing to worry about. In fact, there’s a general complacency about the state of Canada’s wetlands that’s adding to the urgent need for action.
In a country that’s home to approximately one quarter of the world’s remaining wetlands, it’s extremely troubling that we do not have a comprehensive wetland inventory and monitoring system. Without this critical element of environmental planning and technology, Canada may be losing wetlands faster than it’s documenting them. For now, conservative estimates suggest we may be losing as many as 80 acres of wetlands a day—the equivalent of 45 soccer fields every 24 hours.
It’s easy to see that we have an incredible opportunity—and responsibility—to address biodiversity loss by conserving and restoring wetlands. I’m extremely proud of the progress Ducks Unlimited Canada is making, with more than 6.6. million acres and 11,800 habitat projects under our care. Every one of them is bolstering biodiversity by providing habitat for more than 500 species of wildlife, including 97 species at risk.
But there is much more work to be done.
Ducks Unlimited Canada has launched a special campaign called Project Dragonfly focused on the need to conserve and restore wetlands across Canada to support biodiversity. Whether you care about dragonflies or ducks, muskrats or moose, songbirds or salmon, safeguarding wetlands is our best defence against biodiversity loss.
So today, we’re asking one important question to all Canadians: Will you join us?