On World Wetlands Day, treasure Georgian Bay’s wetlands

Most wetlands in the Great Lakes have already been lost or degraded due to human disturbance. More than 50% of wetlands in Lakes Michigan, Erie and Ontario have been negatively affected. But in Lakes Superior and Huron, including Georgian Bay, over 70% have been minimally impacted.

With more than 8,000 km of shoreline on The Bay and 3,700 aquatic marshes in Eastern and Northern Georgian Bay alone, these areas provide high quality habitat for fish, amphibians and reptiles, insects, birds, waterfowl, a variety of other land-based wildlife, as well as numerous in-water and coastal plant species.

In addition to their critical habitat functions, wetlands also play an important role in maintaining overall water quality. Wetlands perform a type of water treatment function, filtering sediments as well as contaminants such as pesticides from the air and water, which helps to control water pollution. They also filter excess nutrients, reducing harmful concentrations of phosphorous and nitrogen. Wetlands help to protect against flooding and can control shoreline erosion and infrastructure too.

When the wetlands change due to major and sustained changes in water levels, contaminants, agricultural development, urbanization or invasion by non-native species, so does the diversity and composition of the native ecosystems and all the species they contain.

The entire system is delicately balanced, and it does not take much to upset that fine balance. Wetlands are highly vulnerable to extremes, such as variations in temperature, precipitation, and evaporation. If water temperatures or pollutant levels rise, for instance, or if marshes turn into dry meadows, bush or forest, they can no longer support the same biodiversity. In many instances, the changes are both transformative and permanent.

5 ways that you can help

A little about World Wetlands Day...

Groundhogs share this day with wetland appreciation! February 2nd is a day that recognizes the important role that wetlands play in maintaining biodiversity and the value they bring to our lives.

This celebration of wetlands began on Feb 2, 1997 - the anniversary of the signing of the Ramsar Convention in 1971. This is a treaty that is currently signed by about 169 contracting counties/parties that work on preserving wetlands and their sustainable use.

Canada became a contracting party in May 1981 with about 37 internationally recognized Ramsar wetland sites including several in the Great Lakes and Georgian Bay watershed.

Sources:
https://en.wikipedia.org https://www.ramsar.org/