Wetlands are critical for people and planet, serving as havens for wildlife, filtering pollution, and storing carbon. Globally, they are the Earth’s most threatened ecosystem, disappearing three times faster than forests, posing a severe threat to many plant and animal species. A study published last year, stated that 75% of our wetlands have been destroyed in the past 300 years. Wetlands support nature and biodiversity, filter, store and clean water and act as a carbon sink.
Today, 2nd February is World Wetlands Day, and this year the aim is to highlight the interconnectedness of human wellbeing with the health of the planet’s precious wetlands. Human wellbeing – physical, mental and environmental are all interconnected with wetlands and nature.
In Ireland, wetlands have been seen as wasteland because of their lack of agricultural capacity. They were drained or reclaimed to bring them into agricultural production or because of their lower value used for road construction or other industrial purpose. As relatively inexpensive land, it was often used roadways, drained or reclaimed. Invasive Alien Species can also negatively impact on wetlands and wetland ecosystems.
Yet, we have centuries old spiritual connections to wetlands. Rushes, a plant uniquely associated with wetlands were weaved by St. Brigid (and many a school child since) into a cross to ward off evil.
The real value of wetlands is only now becoming apparent. They hold water and can therefore reduce downstream flooding during the more frequent intense storm events experienced because of climate change. The stored water helps replenish water tables that might otherwise be diminished during dry periods. Established wetlands are a hotbed for nature and biodiversity (frogs come back to where they were born to mate).
Recently people are beginning to value the solace, peace and aesthetic of wetlands as seen in the success of the Wild Atlantic Way for example. Protecting wetlands and providing an opportunity to value them, can deliver economic benefits through nature tourism and recreational opportunities that provides well-being to local communities.
Still a key challenge to change mindsets remains. We need to encourage governments and agencies to value wetlands in planning for climate, nature and water. We need to create water-smart landscapes so that communities can value and prioritize wetlands for nature as well as for human health and well-being.
Many wetland focused events are taking place across the country in the coming weeks. Find out more at
The Local Authority Waters Programme have launched a National Photography Competition ‘My favourite waterbody’ find out more at: