World Wetlands Day, Feb. 2, forces all of us to come to terms with an environmental crisis happening right in our own backyard.
It’s a crisis just as damaging as those being experienced by rainforests, coral reefs and the Australian Outback.
The loss of wetlands in Alberta, in Canada and around the world, continues at an incredible rate. Using historical data and mapping, it’s estimated that 70 per cent of wetlands in settled areas of Canada are no longer.
And, just as damaging as wetland loss is to people and the planet, so too is the decline of biodiversity that occurs when these valuable ecosystems are lost.
This year’s theme for World Wetlands Day is wetlands and biodiversity. Biodiversity is a measure of the variety of plants and animals in an environment. The biodiversity associated with wetlands is among the highest in the world.
High biodiversity is an indicator that the environment is healthy; reduced biodiversity is a warning that the environment and ecosystems are under stress, have been damaged or are being damaged.
When species are lost, the impact is perpetual. At home, Canada’s State of the Birds report says that our country has lost 40 to 60 per cent of shorebird, grassland bird and aerial insectivore (birds that feed on insects while flying, such as swallows) populations.
A North American study reveals that nearly three billion birds have disappeared since 1970 in Canada and the U.S. It’s an alarming statistic that sheds light to an overlooked biodiversity crisis.
Often, wetland loss is the result of human activity past and present. While we know the value of wetlands relative to biodiversity and the environment, we continue to lose wetlands outright and damage many of those that remain.
But there is hope. Work by Ducks Unlimited Canada and its many partners is helping bird populations – especially waterfowl – make a comeback, and in some cases, thrive.
The Ducks Unlimited Canada community, which includes landowners, donors, volunteers, staff, government, scientific experts, outdoor enthusiasts and industry, stands committed to conserving wetlands and the biodiversity they support through science-based efforts and programs.
The challenge ahead of all of us now – and you — is continuing to respond to the global call to conserve wetlands and associated habitat.
Learn how you can help save wetlands and promote biodiversity at www.ducks.ca.
Ron Maher is manager of Alberta operations for Ducks Unlimited Canada. Kevin Smith is the group’s national manager of boreal programs.