Environment, Stories

Wetlands – why should I care?

Nicole Middleton Moulting Lagoon 3

Humans often equate wetlands with wasteland; a place to be drained, filled in, burnt off and re-purposed.

In fact, scientific studies show that 64 % of the world’s wetlands have disappeared since 1900. Measured against 1700, an estimated 87 % have been lost.

Tasmania has many special wetlands, 10 are internationally significant and 89 are listed in A Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia.

Moulting Lagoon Game Reserve on the east coast is a large, internationally recognised wetland on the east coast of Tasmania and is an important breeding ground for various waterfowl and wetland birds, and also a destination for migratory birds. Others in Tasmania’s Southern region include Pittwater – Orielton Lagoon [PDF 4.1 Mb], Apsley Marshes, East – Coast Cape Barren Island Lagoon and Interlaken. More information can be found at Parks Tas.

 

Wetlands are everywhere

Wetlands are land areas that are saturated or flooded with water either permanently or seasonally.

Inland wetlands include marshes, ponds, lakes, fens, rivers, floodplains, and swamps.

Coastal wetlands include saltwater marshes, estuaries, mangroves, lagoons and even coral reefs.

Fish ponds, rice paddies, and salt  pans are human-made wetlands.

Wetlands range in size from  less than a single hectare to the Pantanal in Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay, which covers an area three times the size of Ireland.

Wetlands ensure fresh water for all of us

Less than 3 % of the world’s water is fresh, and most of that is frozen. Yet every human requires 20-50 litres of water a day for basic drinking, cooking and cleaning.

Wetlands provide our water needs and help replenish the groundwater aquifers that are an important source of fresh water for humanity.

Wetlands guarantee our food supply

Humans consume 19 kg of fish each year on average. Most commercial fish depend on coastal wetlands for part of their life cycle.

Rice, grown in wetland paddies, is the staple diet of nearly three billion people, and accounts for 20 % of the world’s nutritional intake.

Wetlands purify and filter harmful waste from water

Some of the pollutants from pesticides, industry and mining, including heavy metals and toxins are absorbed by wetland sediments, plants and marine life.

Almost two billion people in Asia and 380 million Europeans depend on groundwater aquifers for their water supply.

Have a look at this information from the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands at www.ramsar.org

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