WORLD WETLANDS DAY 2015

In a few days, the world will be celebrating the importance of wetlands around the globe. Some will actually celebrate it, while others will just consider it as an ordinary day. Perhaps because most of us are not aware of it, but that does not exempt us from being a part of it, or at least knowing something about it.

What Are We Celebrating Again?
February 2 each year is World Wetlands Day! And that’s happening in a few days, really. The theme for this year is “Wetlands for Our Future.” (Yeah!!! OUR FUTURE!!!) Uhm, okay. So what’s in it for us? I mean, why would we care? Well, reading further to know what I’m saying won’t hurt. Who knows, it might find a way to our heart to finally appreciate wetlands.

Laguna De Bay as viewed from Bay, Laguna
Laguna De Bay as viewed from Bay, Laguna.

Let us start with this question: What Are Wetlands?

Honestly, I am not very much familiar with this topic, so I sought the help of the Internet, which is the number one source of information about everything nowadays. Google says, wetlands are “land consisting of marshes or swamps; saturated land.” Hmm. Still kind of vague for me, eh. So I checked Wikipedia, and it says “the factor that distinguishes wetlands from other land forms or water bodies is the characteristic vegetation of aquatic plants, adapted to its unique hydric soil. Wetlands have unique characteristics: they are generally distinguished from other water bodies or landforms based on their water level and on the types of plants that live within them. Specifically, wetlands are characterized as having a water table that stands at or near the land surface for a long enough period each year to support aquatic plants.” Okay, there are just too many technical terms in there. Hmm. But in my understanding of all these, wetlands are the lakes, rivers and of course, as Google mentions, marshes and swamps.

But here’s a more concise definition of wetlands from a much reliable source:
“Wetlands are highly variable and dynamic: they are water bodies but also include land. They are freshwater, brackish or saline, inland or coastal, seasonal or permanent, natural or man-made. Wetlands include mangroves, (peat) swamps and marshes, rivers, lakes, floodplains and flooded forests, rice-fields, and even coral reefs.”

We now know what wetlands are, huh! Cool, huh!

NAPWC1
The man-made pond inside the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center (NAPWC) in the heart QC.

What Is the Importance of Wetlands?

But to fully appreciate wetlands, we should not stop by just knowing the definition of the word. We should also learn the importance of it.

The Society for the Conservation of Philippine Wetlands (SCPW), an environmental organization that focuses mainly on wetlands conservation, says “wetlands are part of our natural wealth and have been critical to the development and survival of human communities.” They even add the following as the functions of wetlands:

  • Flood Control
  • Groundwater Replenishment
  • Water Purification
  • Sediment & Nutrient Retention and Export
  • Reservoirs of Biodiversity
  • Shoreline Stabilization / Storm Protection
  • Recreation & Tourism
  • Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation
  • Cultural Values
  • Wetland Products

Wow! That’s awesomely lot of functions! Well, I’ve heard about mangroves’, which mostly grow in wetlands, capability of protecting us from storm surge and that wetlands are a haven for migratory birds, but aside from these, everything on this list is new to me. Indeed, wetlands play a very significant role in the environment and in our lives since we co-exist with it–we just sometimes choose to ignore this very fact.

Sampaloc Lake SPC Laguna
Sampaloc Lake in San Pablo City (SPC), Laguna | The Sampaloc Lake is one of the “Seven Lakes of San Pablo.” It is the largest among the seven lakes and the most accessible to the public.

What Are the Wetlands Here in the Philippines?

The SCPW lists some of the many wetlands in the country including:

  • Manila Bay
  • Laguna de Bay
  • Agusan Marsh
  • Lake Taal
  • Lake Sebu
  • Lake Buhi
  • Tubbataha Reef
  • Candaba Swamp
  • Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA)
  • Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park

I am sure most of us have heard of and even visited these places, we just have no idea of their importance. All we know is that they look great and are picturesque, but beyond that, we know nothing like Jon Snow. *Sigh*

For a complete and detailed list of the Philippine wetlands by the SCPW, please click on here.

Caliraya Lake Laguna
Caliraya Lake in Lumban, Laguna | The Caliraya Lake is a man-made lake that is about 3 km wide. Today, the Caliraya Lake is one of the must-visit places in Laguna.

So What’s in It for Us Now?

Having learned all these things about wetlands–their definition, the role they play, their significance in the environment and our lives–what do we do next? Does this imply that we join an environmental organization and be actively involved in protecting wetlands? No, not necessarily, but that would be really nice. 🙂 The important thing is our awareness and appreciation of wetlands–knowing why we have to appreciate wetlands as much as we appreciate other environmental assets.

We need not be part of a group upon reading this to become environmentalists. Appreciation is enough for now, because you know why, with appreciation comes concern, and with concern comes action and support. Our green mind will shine before we even realize it.

manila bay
Manila Bay at sunset.

Wetlands for Our Future!

That is the theme for this year’s wetlands day celebration. For me, this theme does not only concern the people directly involved in wetlands conservation or the environmentalists, but all of us. This calls for our attention to protect wetlands and all of nature for our future.

In writing this article about wetlands, honestly, I am expecting whoever reads this to somehow take action–now. If you cannot commit to an environmental group like the SCPW, at least spread the word or their advocacy. If you are traveling to places where there are wetlands, you might want to start protecting them by making people aware of their importance. How, you say? Speak of the significance of these wetlands in our lives and how essential they are to our future. Or take photos of these wetlands. Share their beauty. And if you are 15 to 24 years old, you might even win a free flight to a wetland location anywhere in the worldYou want to know how? Enter this photo contest sponsored by the Ramsar Convention.

Now you too can celebrate the Wetlands Day! Enjoy!

panorama Laguna de bay crocodile lake
Panorama shot of Laguna De Bay | The “Crocodile Lake” can be seen in this photo.

In support of this campaign, Aksyon Kalikasan (Eco Actions Ph) will be organizing a series of wetlands rehabilitation activities for young Filipinos to give them an opportunity to take photos for the photo contest. Click on here for more details.

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