Grand Codroy Estuary, western NL (Photo by NCC)

Grand Codroy Estuary, western NL (Photo by NCC)

Celebrating World Wetlands Day in Newfoundland and Labrador

Wetlands play many vital roles in our lives

NCC wetland and stream property, The Gully in Torbay, Avalon Peninsula, NL (Photo by NCC)

NCC wetland and stream property, The Gully in Torbay, Avalon Peninsula, NL (Photo by NCC)

The following opinion editorial and commentary was issued by the Nature Conservancy of Canada on the occasion of World Wetlands Day.

If you used water today to brush your teeth, cook or quench your thirst, you should probably thank a wetland! World Wetlands Day, celebrated every February 2, is an opportunity to learn about the value and importance of wetlands to Canadians.

If you’re wondering why you should care, consider what wetlands do for us:

From providing ecological services such as flood control and carbon storage to food production, wetlands play a vital role in our day-to-day lives.

Wetlands are good for your health. They play a key role in removing sediments, excess nutrients and even bacteria from drinking water. 

Over two-thirds of Canadians get their drinking water from lakes, rivers and reservoirs, and the quality of that water depends on the health of the watershed, including wetlands. Like giant sponges, wetlands also absorb and replenish water to buffer our communities from flood and drought risks.

Wetlands are vital nesting and feeding grounds for waterfowl. They provide nursery habitat for fishes and are one of Canada’s most diverse ecosystems. At least half of our wildlife species rely on wetlands for at least part of their lifecycle.

Canada is home to 25 percent of world’s wetlands; more than any other country. However, our wetlands are disappearing due to infrastructure development such as roads and cities or drainage for agricultural production. This loss of wetlands is especially high in southern Canada. 

The Nature Conservancy of Canada has protected and restored over 145,790 acres (59,000 hectares) of wetlands across the country for the benefit of wildlife and people for more than 50 years.

In our conservation work, we identify and map Canada’s most important wetlands for nature and people. We then work with private landowners, communities, governments, Habitat Joint Venture partners, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other organizations to conserve important habitats — including wetlands, floodplains and shores.

Wetlands are among the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s most important habitats we are working to conserve. We also restore wetlands that have been degraded, to improve these natural spaces for migratory birds, amphibians, fishes and other wildlife.

In addition to their importance for nature, many of the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s wetland areas provide recreational opportunities such as walking, hiking, fishing, wildlife viewing and canoeing, along with educational opportunities for people of all ages to learn and explore.

Here are just a few examples where the Nature Conservancy of Canada has helped conserved wetlands in Newfoundland and Labrador:

  • The Grand Codroy Estuary is a designated international Ramsar (international convention on wetlands) site in the province. There are over 150 species of birds identified in the area, including 19 species of waterfowl. The Nature Conservancy of Canada has been active in the area since 1994, slowly building our relationship with the community and growing our land holdings to over 500 acres (200 hectares). Now holding over 20 percent of the land within the Ramsar site, NCC is living up to our original vision of helping to protect the estuary shoreline from additional development.
  • The Torbay Gully on the Avalon Peninsula is a small wetland site containing the most easterly freshwater marshes in North America. Freshwater marshes are uncommon in this natural area, which features a marsh just 600 metres off the Atlantic Ocean. The gully acts as an oasis and refuge for several plants and animals. Since 2012 NCC, in collaboration with the Town of Torbay, has been active in the community, making several presentations to the public, council and landowners.
  • NCC's Newfoundland and Labrador program team partnered with local stakeholders and members of the Eastern Habitat Joint Venture to help conserve a key wetland area in St. John’s. The Lundrigan’s Marsh is near Logy Bay Road and now protected by the City of St. John’s. In 1999 a group of local naturalists approached NCC and requested that the organization conserve the private wetland property. This led to the formation of the Lundrigan’s Marsh Conservation and Stewardship Committee. NCC then had an environmental impact assessment done on the site and then collaborated with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and other interested groups to secure financial support.

As the world grapples with the impacts of a changing climate, Canada is well positioned to make a difference on a global scale by protecting our wetlands. Wetlands trap and store carbon, and help local communities adapt to the harmful effects of climate change by protecting us from storm surges, drought and flooding.

Help us conserve wetlands by supporting our work. Visit www.natureconservancy.ca/nl to learn more about how you can volunteer, contribute to our projects and make a difference in the well-being of our country’s people and wildlife.

Lanna Campbell is the program director for the Nature Conservancy of Canada in Newfoundland and Labrador.

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