The wetlands across the world are finally getting their due recognition and acknowledgment for the immense importance they play in the climate crisis. However, these wetland areas were earlier shown neglect, dismissing them as micro-organism infected and damp backwaters. They saw relegation from all productive human activities. Wetlands were previously considered to serve the role of drainage and later destroyed to transform them into farmland.
The government of the United Kingdom will soon nominate a massive land for blanket bogs specifically in the Northern side of Scotland. This will be named as a heritage site worldwide. Although most people might not find this as an attractive idea, these marshlands are some of the world’s largest carbon storehouses. In addition, the bogs also deliver abundant freshwater as well as harbor an astounding range of wildlife that fall under the threatened category.
Wetlands are acutely essential in dry landscapes owing to the fact that they act as natural sponges. They also act as the only source of food and fresh water for the wildlife and people around. Nonetheless, several wetlands in the deserts are very small and rapidly disappearing. They are also constantly changing and temporary in nature.
Worldwide Wetland Patches
The recent recognition of wetlands primarily attributed to the agreement made 50 years back at Ramesar in Iran on 2nd February 1971. The Ramesar Convention exists as the sole international convention which had a commitment towards protecting this particular ecosystem. On the other hand, the convention made a broad categorization of wetlands that can easily refer to peat bogs, estuaries, shallow lakes, or swamps.
As of now, 171 nations signed up for this convention that will provide protection to over 2,400 sites. This indicates 10% to 20% of remaining wetlands worldwide and collectively encompass a larger expanse than Mexico. This convention urges governments to make a wise utilization and preservation of wetlands in the borderlands. Nevertheless, it does not ensure the safety of these bogs.
Since the 1700s, there has been a loss of approximately 90% of wetlands all over the world already. The ones that remain are gradually disappearing at an exponentially fast pace that exceeds the loss of forests. Wetlands face countless threats including climate change, invasive species, river diversion, and agricultural expansion.
Yet the greatest threat to the wetlands is ignorance as we still are not aware of the habitat conservation that frequently surprises seasoned researchers. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of these wetlands is the strange existence of wetlands amid the driest landscapes on Earth.
Marshy Ecology Amid Desert
The drylands of the planet cause the evaporation of water very quickly. There are nearly 40% warm drylands on the surface of the Earth out of which 28% overlaps with wetlands and inland rivers. This leads to marshes, floodplains, oases, and swamps which are crucial water supplies in an otherwise dry landscape.
There are a few famous wetlands including the Mesopotamian Marshes in Iraq which is widely believed as the inspiration to the Garden of Eden. The floodplain of River Nile is also surrounded by desertland and gave rise to modern human civilization. However, there are countless others that are unmapped and unidentified.
The main reason for this acknowledgment is the frequent changes in this landscape. Wetlands often disappear before making reappearances. Seasonal rainstorms provide sustenance to green patches if the soil is able to retain the water for a while. Many other wetlands amid the drylands are a source of permanent water supply owing to the underground water source and deep seeping of damp conditions. However, other wetland pockets lie dormant till reawakened by flooding and erupt suddenly in exciting green shades in desert areas.
Many of the bogs are temporary and hosts a booming ecosystem through some months after a good downpour that takes place following years or decades later. Scientists often fail to identify or locate the hidden treasures due to the timing or scale. Many ‘boom and bust’ wetlands which appear after occasional showers of rain remain understudied and endangered. This is predominantly because we do not even recognize their presence or appreciate their complete value.
To Protect Them Or Let Them Perish?
All the wetlands have an inclination to change because rivers change courses over time. This changes the location of floodwaters, nutrients, and sediments might end up. Many old wetland areas are quickly drying up and several newer ones are gradually developing.
These frequent changes make up a medley of various landforms with different kinds of soil types and wetness. This greatly helps in the creating of a vast range of habitats that are suitable for an equally enormous variety of wildlife. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to understand the process of the development of wetlands. Since this will provide us the accurate insights of maintaining them. Although the initial step is to shatter the concept of static habitats and permanent landscape features.
In spite of some limitations, Ramesar Convention served as the most productive mechanism to highlighting and protecting the invaluable wetlands on a global level. It encouraged researchers to seek the ones unnoticed and countries to take immediate measures to save them.
India has also lately added a range of complex shallow lakes in the dry mountains. Innumerable endangered species like the snow leopard will be benefitting from the mountainous wetland habitats. Ecology conservationists are hoping that several other major countries will also follow suit. Hopefully, they will take some active steps to prevent the wetlands from perishing before it becomes too late.