World Wetlands Day
World Wetlands Day is celebrated every year to raise global awareness about the value of wetlands for humanity and the planet.
The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands was adopted in 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar, and World Wetlands Day was celebrated for the first time in 1997.
The list of Wetlands of International Importance includes 2,231 Ramsar sites around the world covering over 2.1 million square kilometres.
Wetlands in Kakadu
Australia has 65 listed wetlands, with Kakadu National Park having almost 7000 square kilometres of Ramsar listed wetlands. That’s almost a third of Kakadu!
The wetlands comprise extensive seasonal floodplains, estuaries, tidal flats and offshore islands. By far the largest component of these wetlands is the floodplain complex associated with the three large perennial Alligator rivers and seasonal creeks.
The floodplains are outstanding examples of their type in the monsoon tropics. Together with the West Alligator and Wildman rivers in the adjoining wetland of Kakadu, they are the only such river systems under statutory conservation management in Australia. The East Alligator River supports belts of mangrove forest, including 75% of mangrove species.
Several fish species with narrowly restricted ranges and a range of fauna with particular conservation importance have been recorded. Breeding populations of saltwater and freshwater crocodiles also occur in large numbers.
Kakadu is especially renowned for its bird life, and between August and October up to one million waterbirds from more than 60 species gather on the floodplains, notably those of Nourlangie Creek, including the Mamukala Wetlands.
Large numbers of magpie geese and whistling ducks breed in the site, but most waterbirds using the area are dry season migrants. Over thirty species of wader have been recorded, including many winter sub-Arctic migrants whose first landfall is in the Kakadu area.
The role of wetlands in nature
The general public are largely unaware of how wetlands safeguard us. People often see wetlands as wasteland – something to be filled in or converted to other uses.
However, wetlands play an important role in reducing the impact of extreme weather events such as floods, droughts and cyclones. They act as a natural sponge, absorbing and storing excess rainfall and reducing flooding. During the dry season, they release the water stored, delaying the onset of droughts and reducing water shortages.
Scientists estimate that at least 64% of the world’s wetlands have disappeared since 1900.
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