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World Wetlands Day 2024

10 February 2024

Today is an opportunity to celebrate the remarkable impact of wetlands on the web of life.  

Wetlands, ‘land areas that are permanently or seasonally saturated or flooded with water', are havens of biodiversity and some of the world’s most abundant ecosystems.  

Wetlands also draw down 40 times more carbon than rainforests, provide fresh water to billions of people, and are humanity's best defence against the rising seas threatening to destroy millions of homes. 

 

Wetlands store over a quarter of the world's organic carbon. Credit Henry Gold

Wetlands have also been at the forefront of the conservation movement – the 1971 Ramsar Convention was the first modern treaty to conserve nature.  

RAMSAR wetlands are now the largest network of protected areas in the world. They cover 2,400 locations protected across 2.5 million square kilometres in 172 countries.

Australia has played a leading role as one of the seven founding RAMSAR signatories and the first country to designate a RAMSAR protected wetland. 

 The Cobourg Peninsula was the world's first RAMSAR listed wetland

 

The 6RAMSAR sites that cover 8.3 million hectares of Country are subject to some of the strictest legal protections in Australia. These areas provide havens and breeding grounds for countless plants and animals, including the 2 million migratory birds that journey from Alaska and Siberia to nest and feed. 

Despite these heroic conservation efforts, wetlands remain some of the fastest disappearing ecosystems in the world – over 90% have been degraded or destroyed since the Industrial Revolution. 

 

The pied oystercatcher is just one species being driven to extinction by the destruction of our wetlands

 

Wetlands in NSW face a barrage of threats, including climate change, inappropriate development, overfishing and disturbance from agriculture, mining and invasive species.  

The laws that are meant to protect wetlands are failing - local councils and the State Government are still arguing over who is responsible for their protection.

Meanwhile, developers are raking in record profits building on floodplains and destroying the mangrove forests and fish nurseries that must be protected.  

 

Development in South West Rocks butting up against Salwater Lagoon. Credit: Calumn Hockey

 

We mark World Wetlands Day by restating our commitment to ensure state and federal governments uphold their legal and moral obligations to protect our wetlands. As the RAMSAR Convention states, wetlands are vital to human survival.  

You can find out more and support our campaign to protect our wetlands here. 

With so many of these precious ecosystems already destroyed, we cannot afford the new wave of destruction that is upon us. 

We will be doing everything we can, and invite you to join us at this critical juncture. 

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