Inverness property on PEI (Photo by NCC)

Inverness property on PEI (Photo by NCC)

Protect wetlands, help fight climate change

February 5, 2019
Charlottetown

 

NCC's working to conserve wetlands on PEI


Unlike many countries, Canada is rich in water: our nation is home to an astonishing 25 per cent of the world’s wetlands.

Perhaps Canada’s abundance of wetlands is one reason these diverse and vital ecosystems are underappreciated and under-protected.

Wetlands act as natural filters that purify our groundwater and drinking water, while providing critical habitat for wildlife: wetlands provide nesting and feeding grounds for many species of birds, they provide nursery habitat for fish, and they support a wide diversity of insects which are the foundation of the food chain.

Close to half of Canada’s wildlife species and a third of Canada’s species at risk rely on wetlands for at least part of their lifecycle.

Unfortunately, more than 50 million acres (20 million hectares) of Canada’s ponds, bogs, swamps, salt marshes, estuaries and other wetlands have been lost, mainly due to pollution and urban development. Wetlands near urban areas are particularly threatened, with 80 to 98 per cent converted to other uses.

Almost everywhere Canadians live most of the original wetlands have disappeared. In the Atlantic provinces, where settlements are clustered along the coast, 65 per cent of coastal wetlands have already been lost.

These losses are why it’s so important for Prince Edward Island to conserve its remaining wetland habitats, to protect wildlife and biodiversity, and help offset the pending impacts of a changing climate on our communities.

Like a giant paper towel, wetlands hold water on the landscape, and buffer communities and farms from the effects of both floods and droughts – which are growing more common and extreme.

Wetlands also help absorb and store carbon pollution and remove sediment, excess nutrients and even bacteria from our drinking water. Wetlands are nature’s multi-taskers.

For all these reasons, the Nature Conservancy of Canada has made the conservation of wetlands on PEI a priority. Thanks to generous donations from Islanders, and the support of our partners, NCC has protected coastal wetlands at Blooming Point, Holman’s Island, Percival River and several other sites.

Currently NCC is working on a new project: the permanent protection of a large wetland and surrounding forest near Kingsboro.

February 2 was designated World Wetlands Day in 1971 to focus attention on these essential natural areas. Consider the fact that 64 per cent of the world’s wetlands have already been lost, a rate three times greater than the loss of forests. At this time of year—although Canada’s wetlands are mainly under ice---reflect for a moment on the crucial services they provide, services that are increasingly important as we look for ways to adapt to climate change.

Under the Convention of Biological Diversity, ratified by all UN members (with the exception of the United States) Canada made an international commitment to conserve 17 per cent of its land and inland waters by 2020—including a significant percentage in every province.

Making wetland conservation a priority on PEI is one way to meet that target, and secure some of our most critical ecosystems for both wildlife and people.

(Lanna Campbell is the PEI Program Director with the Nature Conservancy of Canada)

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