Healthy Wetlands, Healthy People
World Wetlands Day 2008
Each year World Wetlands Day is acknowledged with a host of events throughout the country when Fish & Game NZ and the Department of Conservation lead a range of organizations in creating varied wetland experiences around that year’s WWD theme, chosen to highlight an issue facing wetlands internationally.
This year’s theme of ‘Healthy Wetlands, Healthy People’ emphasises the strong relationship between maintaining functioning wetland ecosystems and human health, and the necessity for management strategies that support this.
Wetlands perform a vital function in filtering and purifying freshwater, removing nutrients and preventing eutrophication in surface and ground waters. This cleansing role of wetlands protects downstream environments, especially urban and rural communities relying on streams and rivers for drinking water.
Good quality water is also important for maintaining fish stocks, both native fish as well as New Zealand’s internationally renowned sports fishery for trout and salmon. Fishing, whitebaiting, boating, swimming, duck shooting and bird watching are all recreational activities associated with wetlands.
It has long been known that physical activity positively affects both physical and psychological well-being. Recent research is showing that there is also a synergistic effect of physical activity in natural environments – what is being called ‘green exercise’ – on an individual’s sense of well-being.
But apart from physical exercise, there is something about water that engenders an inner sense of calm and relaxation – maybe it’s the beauty, the tranquility, the enduring power of nature or simply the recognition that water is an essential life force.
Wetlands are disappearing worldwide, despite the fact that they are amongst the most important ecosystems on the planet. According to the United Nations, last century 50% of the world’s remaining wetlands were destroyed, while other wetlands have been significantly modified to fragment and alter water flow in 60% of the world’s largest rivers, compromising many valuable ecosystem functions.
WWD celebrates the signing of the International Convention on Wetlands in Ramsar, Iran in 1971. The Convention came into force in 1975 and New Zealand became a signatory in 1976. There are now 157 member countries to the Ramsar Convention, which commits its member countries to national action and international co-operation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.
The organizations participating in its celebration throughout New Zealand include Fish & Game NZ, the Department of Conservation, the National Wetland Trust, Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society, Mighty River Power, Iwi, and Regional and District Councils.
To see the events to celebrate World Wetlands Day 2008 on or around 2 February go to www.doc.govt.nz