World Wetlands Day is celebrated on the 2nd of February each year to raise awareness about the importance and value of wetlands. This day also marks the anniversary of the Convention on Wetlands, which was adopted as an international treaty in 1971.
Restoration is the key theme for World Wetlands Day in 2023 and this highlights the urgent global need to prioritise wetland restoration. Wetlands are disappearing three times faster than forests, and more than 35% of wetlands have been degraded or lost since 1970. Reversing this trend is critical.
The theme builds on - and contributes to the efforts to heal the planet as championed by the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. This global initiative which runs from 2021-2030 is leading and providing inspiration for restoring ecosystems around the world.
What is a wetland?
A wetland is a land area that is saturated or flooded with water either permanently or seasonally. Wetlands come in all shapes and sizes. They can be found in millions of squares kilometres of stunning scenery or simply in your back garden.
Inland wetlands include marshes, peatlands, lakes, rivers, floodplains, and swamps.
Coastal wetlands include saltwater marshes, estuaries, mangroves, lagoons, and even coral reefs.
Fishponds, rice paddies and salt pans are human-made wetlands.
Why are wetlands important?
Freshwater is rare. Wetlands provide most of it.
2.5% of water on earth is freshwater, mostly stored in glaciers and aquifers.
Less than 1% is usable, and over 30% of that is found in wetlands such as rivers and lakes.
Wetlands store more carbon than forests.
Peatlands cover 3% of our planet yet store around 30% of all land-based carbon.
Coastal wetlands like mangroves sequester and store carbon up to 55 times faster than tropical rain forests.
Wetlands help us cope with storms and flooding.
60% of humanity lives and works in coastal areas. Saltmarshes, mangroves, seagrass beds and coral reefs shield coastal communities.
Inland, a single acre of wetland can absorb up to 1.5 million gallons of floodwater.
Wetlands give livelihoods to one billion and feed 3.5 billion.
More than a billion people live from fishing, aquaculture and tourism.
Wetland paddies provide rice for 3.5 billion people.
What wetlands are in Essex and Suffolk?
England currently has 71 sites designated as "Wetlands of International Importance".
The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of Ramsar sites (wetlands). It is also known as the Convention on Wetlands. It is named after the city of Ramsar in Iran, where the convention was signed in 1971.
Ramsar sites in Suffolk include the Alde–Ore Estuary, Deben Estuary, Minsmere-Walberswick, and the Stour and Orwell Estuaries.
Essex Ramsar sites include the Colne Estuary, Crouch and Roach Estuaries, Dengie, Foulness, Abberton Reservoir, Benfleet and Southend Marshes, Blackwater Estuary, and the Thames Estuary and Marshes.
The Essex Beavers at Spains Hall Estate have engineered their own wetland ecosystem! What once was dry woodland in Finchingfield, Braintree is now, thanks to the hard work of the beavers, a thriving wetland, providing pools, canals and dams for other species to call home.
Willow, one of the female beavers at Spains Hall Estate - Photo Credit: Russel Savory