Feb 2

Activities are taking place around the world today to celebrate World Wetlands Day, an annual event which highlights the importance of conserving wetland habitats.

Photo of Eurasian spoonbill in wetland habitat

Eurasian spoonbill in wetland habitat. Wetlands cover around 6% of the Earth’s surface, and are vital to both wildlife and humans.

Forty years of wetland conservation

Celebrated each year on the 2nd February, World Wetlands Day marks the anniversary of the adoption of the International Convention on Wetlands, or Ramsar Convention. Now in its 40th year, the Convention has played a key role in the conservation and protection of wetland ecosystems, and continues to work towards their sustainable management for both wildlife and people.

Photo of Madagascar teal on water

The Madagascar teal is under threat from the extensive loss of wetlands in Madagascar.

Since it was first celebrated in 1997, World Wetlands Day has been marked by a huge range of activities and actions for wetlands, from lectures and seminars, to community events and the launching of new wetland policies. This year is no exception, with events taking place around the world to help raise awareness of these valuable habitats.

Forests for water and wetlands

The theme for World Wetlands Day 2011 is ‘Wetlands and Forests’, chosen because 2011 is the UN International Year of Forests.

Photo of southern river otter hiding amongst branches in swamp forest

The Southern river otter, an Endangered species which inhabits swamp forest and other freshwater habitats.

Forested wetlands, such as mangroves and swamps forests, are home to a vast array of species and are vital in freshwater management and in combating climate change. Unfortunately, many face a range of threats including development, drainage and land conversion. All types of forest play an essential role in the health of wetlands and water supplies, and their loss can affect both wildlife and humans.

Wetlands for the future

Although much has already been done to conserve the world’s wetlands, they continue to face severe and ever-increasing threats, and many internationally important sites are still in need of protection.

Photo of juvenile western swamp turtle in habitat

Wetlands are vital habitats for many different species, from birds and mammals to fish and reptiles, such as this Critically Endangered western swamp turtle.

It is hoped that World Wetlands Day 2011 will help raise awareness of these vital habitats and the many threats they face.

Visit Wetlands International for more information on World Wetlands Day.

Read more about the Ramsar Convention.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Species Text Author