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A day to raise awareness of the importance of wetlands


World Wetlands Day is celebrated every year to commemorate the signing of the Convention on Wetlands on February 2, 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea. The day is an opportunity to raise public awareness of the importance of preserving these ecosystems, which are essential if a number of environmental challenges are to be met.

Zone Libellule, Saint-Just – Credit: SUEZ / © BUSINESS ROLL AGENCY

The many virtues of wetlands

The Ramsar Convention, an international treaty that was adopted in 1971 and came into force in 1975, defines wetlands as “areas of marsh, fen, peatland, or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish, or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six metres”. The French environmental code defines wetlands as “developed or undeveloped lands regularly inundated or saturated with fresh, salt, or brackish water, permanently or temporarily; when there is vegetation in such areas, it is mainly composed of hydrophilic plans for at least part of the year” (article L.211-1). Although there are many definitions of “wetlands”, all of them agree that such zones are of primary importance. Wetlands are not only important reserves of biodiversity, they also play a major role in filtering out pollutants. They help replenish groundwater and are natural carbon storehouses, which means they limit the impact of human CO2 emissions. Finally, they help reduce erosion, particularly along coastlines, and their capacity to absorb water and release it during dry spells provides protection against both floods and droughts.

We all must be aware of the need to preserve wetlands

Urbanisation, the reclamation of wetlands for agricultural purposes, the appearance of invasive alien species, and overuse of water resources, are only some of the many threats wetlands face. The theme of this year’s World Wetlands Day, “Wetlands for our Future”, was selected to demonstrate the vital role of wetlands in combatting global warming and achieving the new Sustainable Development Goals (2015-2030) adopted by the UN Member Countries this past September. Along these lines, the national symposium – “Restoring Nature? The example of wetlands” – will be held this coming 3 and 4 February at the Océanopolis in Brest, France, with the goal of taking the debate on these themes to national level, and sharing knowledge and skills.

The role of wetlands in images:

Credit: Ramsar

Natural… or artificial zones

The many virtues of wetlands may lead regional authorities to create artificial ones in order to achieve goals such as the restoration of an ecosystem, the promotion of biodiversity, water purification… Thus, the Zone Libellule [Dragonfly Zone], designed by SUEZ in Languedoc-Roussillon, France was created downstream from a wastewater treatment plant to allow wetland plants to further purify the wastewater before it is released into the environment.

Zone Libellule, Saint-Just – Credit: SUEZ

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