Urban wetlands make cities livable in many important ways. They reduce flooding, replenish drinking water, filter waste, provide urban green spaces, and are a source of livelihoods. These wetland benefits grow ever more crucial as the number of people living in cities globally passes the 4 billion mark and continues to rise.
Unfortunately, most people are unaware of the value and importance of urban wetlands. In fast-growing cities, wetlands are often viewed as wasteland; places to dump rubbish, fill in or convert to other uses. To highlight the importance of urban wetlands, the theme for World Wetlands Day this year is ‘Wetlands for a Sustainable Urban Future’.
World Wetlands Day is celebrated every year on February 2nd to raise global awareness about the value of wetlands for humanity and the planet. It also marks the date of adoption of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar. World Wetlands Day was celebrated for the first time in 1997.
It is estimated that by 2050, 66% of humanity will live in cities. However, as cities explode in growth, there is often a corresponding decrease in wetland cover, with scientists estimating that at least 64% of the world’s wetlands have disappeared since 1900. World Wetlands Day 2018 aims to raise awareness about how urban wetlands contribute to the future of sustainable cities.
Urban wetlands make cities livable by providing multiple benefits and should be integrated into a city’s sustainable future planning and development instead of being viewed as wasteland. Cities are encouraged to adopt policies and actions which help conserve and promote urban wetlands.
Wetland loss in Muskoka tends to be small and cumulative, predominantly occurring in our urban areas. Despite municipalities requiring, for the most part, that development occur outside defined wetland areas, urban wetlands remain vulnerable to degradation and loss due to development.
Learn more about World Wetlands Day, how wetlands contribute to the future of sustainable cities, and what you can do to protect your local wetlands at www.worldwetlandsday.org. Learn more about wetlands in Muskoka on the Muskoka Watershed Council website at www.muskokawatershed.org or at the Muskoka Conservancy’s wetland trail in the Upjohn Nature Reserve in Bracebridge.