World Wetlands Day!


It’s World Wetlands Day and time to get wild about wetlands here in Aotearoa New Zealand. With seven wetlands of significance identified by the Ramsar convention, and many other notable wetlands besides, we’ve got a lot to brag about for such a small nation!

Our very own Onetahua Farewell Spit alone is an important wetland and home to the largest seagrass meadow in the country. This amazingly accounts for almost a quarter of Aoteraroa’s total seagrass. 

Bogs and marshes aren’t that exciting to the average person, and sadly many people are unaware of the important ecological function they serve. With 90% of the world’s wetlands becoming degraded or lost entirely, it’s time to up our restoration game and let people know how wonderful wetlands are!

Oystercatchers feed in the nutrient-rich tidal flats of Onetahua Farewell Spit

What’s so important about wetlands? 

-Wetlands provide crucial habitat and migration sites for many endangered birds in Aotearoa and around the world. 

-Wetlands act as giant filters, preventing sediment from entering waterways, making it harder for fish to breathe and smothering shellfish and other invertebrates that dwell on the seabed. 

-Wetlands hold great cultural significance to Māori as a source of food and places to harvest flax, taro and other taonga. 

-Wetland plants, such as mangroves and seagrass are important oxygen producers and provide sheltered habitats for many of the smaller invertebrates that provide food for our bird populations. 

-Wetlands provide important buffer zones that protect coastal areas from flooding and storm surges. 

In addition to these important ecological functions, we now understand that wetland areas play an important role in carbon sequestration. 

Wetland plants are capable of storing more carbon than the same amount of forest on dry land.The oxygen-starved and waterlogged soils cause plant material to decompose at a much slower rate, locking the carbon in the material gets for long periods – unless disturbed. This carbon is commonly referred to as blue carbon. 

Why are we losing our wetlands? 

-Human activity is the usual culprit for wetland degradation and what we do on the land eventually takes its toll on our wetlands, and eventually our waterways and oceans. 

-Farming and forestry practices can produce harmful runoff that pollutes wetlands 

-Physical disturbance of wetlands through recreational practices or animal activity can destroy valuable plants and leave soil vulnerable to erosion

-Damage to existing vegetation through quarrying or land reclamation can clear the way for weeds 

New Zealand has seven wetlands of significance as recognised by the Ramsar Convention

The future of wetlands 

The good news is that more than ever we understand the importance of wetlands and are recognised as crucial to the survival of many of our bird species. The discovery of blue carbon has attracted attention from the scientific community and these areas are being carefully looked at through an entirely new lens. The Core and Restore project based in Nelson Tasman is one such project that’s active in researching the benefits of protecting and preserving these ecosystems. 

Projects like Pest Free Onetahua contribute to the preservation of wetlands by eliminating predators that threaten the plants and animals of the area. There are major wetland restoration projects happening throughout Aotearoa, notably Whangamarino Wetland, Ō Tū Wharekai, and Awarua-Waituna Wetland as part of DOC’s Arawai Kākāriki wetland restoration programme.

The National Wetland Trust is active in educating the public on the importance of wetlands and gathering people together on restoration projects. Their website is full of great information on how you can get involved in helping to preserve Aotearoa’s wonderful wetlands! 

Happy World Wetlands Day everyone! 

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