Wetlands provide natural defence against natural disasters

Why we need wetland conservation to minimize the impacts of extreme weather.

February 01, 2017
Wetlands provide natural defence against natural disasters

Unprecedented. Extraordinary. Historic. Words like these were once reserved for the rarest of weather events. Today, we’re hearing them more often as the rare becomes the regular.

Case in point: when flooding hit the Canadian Prairies in 2014, the excess water devastated rural communities. Then, severe drought challenged some of those same communities the next year.

“It used to be rare to see these events piggybacking each other so quickly,” says Pascal Badiou, PhD, a research scientist with DUC’s Institute for Wetland and Waterfowl Research. Badiou is leading several studies that examine the impacts of wetland loss in Canada, particularly on the Prairies.

Research: wetlands can reduce the severity of flooding and droughts

Badiou views this more frequent cycling between droughts and floods as symptomatic of climate change. And a growing body of research, including his own, shows wetlands are the frontlines of defense against these kind of disasters.

Research shows that wetlands can reduce the severity of flooding and drought, holding excess water during wet periods and slowly releasing it during dry periods. They also store carbon and provide essential habitat for migratory and threatened species. Wetlands are essential to Canada’s fresh water too, filtering out pollutants to protect water quality.

Even though wetland conservation is important for the health and safety of all Canadians, we continue to lose wetlands to unsustainable development. Conservation organizations are working hard to reverse this trend. By securing and restoring wetlands, influencing policy, sharing knowledge and spearheading groundbreaking research, DUC is leading the way in protecting the wetlands that reduce our risk of suffering more natural disasters.