Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
Submitted by Cliff Bennett
January 31, 2005
Making a splash – locals promote World Wetlands Day
Worldwide, February 2 is celebrated as World Wetlands Day. The theme for 2005 is the cultural and biological diversity of wetlands and the slogan “There’s wealth in wetland diversity – don’t lose it”, provides an especially fitting occasion to promote local awareness of the importance of wetlands and activities geared toward this.
“Increasingly, the eyes of the world are focused on local stewardship roles with heavy reliance on citizen involvement to protect the natural environment,” says Cliff Bennett, an amateur naturalist, former politician and past president of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN). “We need to engage the public and do everything we can to oversee the ongoing protection of our wetlands and wildlife habitat, even those in our local urban areas.
The Nature Lover’s Bookshop in Lanark Village will host an informal discussion on wetlands as an awareness raising activity February 6; in Carleton Place, the Good Food Company Restaurant will feature a range of fish and rice dishes on the menu throughout February; several students in local schools will work to raise awareness in their classrooms and schools following exams and local teachers have expressed an interest in participating in activities. Other efforts to raise awareness include the distribution of posters and information packages to schools, educators and youth groups, as well as organizing slide shows and other public events.
“Often, we forget what a valuable resource our wetlands are and the benefits they offer to us,” says MFVN member Celina Tuttle. “I am hopeful these activities will lead to broader discussion and other activities throughout the year.” Tuttle is preparing to launch a frog watch of the vernal pond at the end of her block. She remembers a chorus of frogs there each spring when she first moved to the area. However, in recent years the frogs haven’t been as vocal. “I’d like to understand why that is,” she says, “and get to know my neighbours and others in the community in the process.” Tuttle says she became involved in organizing activities around World Wetlands Day to promote collaboration among local organizations and people that carry out activities benefiting wetlands, wildlife, and people.
The MFVN works to increase public interest in and appreciation and respect for the natural world within the Mississippi River watershed. This area includes Mississippi Mills, Carleton Place, Lanark Highlands, Beckwith and surrounding areas. The group offers monthly events, from presentations to field trips, on a range of topics.
For more information:
World Wetlands Day marks the date of the signing of the Convention on Wetlands on 2 February 1971. The Convention on Wetlands, signed in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971, is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. There are presently 138 Contracting Parties to the Convention, with 1328 wetland sites, totaling 111.9 million hectares, designated for inclusion in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance.
The Convention on Wetlands came into force for Canada on 15 May 1981. Canada presently has 36 sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance, with a surface area of 13,051,501 hectares.
Wetlands provide many valuable functions such as:
- Recharge and discharge of groundwater
- Flood and storm surge protection
- Critical habitat for wildlife
- Act as a natural filter and removes contaminants (i.e. improves water quality)
- Wetland vegetation (e.g. grasses, sedges, and cattails) traps sediment and prevents the loss of land (i.e. erosion)
- Nutrient retention, removal and transport
- Recreation, cultural and educational purposes.