By David Sweetnam, Executive Director of Georgian Bay ForeverGeorgian Bay Forever is part of an important Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) project to protect our globally unique and important coastal wetlands. These wetlands help to keep our water clean and provide food and shelter for migrating birds, fish, turtles, and numerous threatened or endangered species who call Georgian Bay home.
The three key questions the ECCC project has set out to address are: wetland resilience of what, to what and how can we build it? In more detail: Identifying the wetland values, processes, and services at risk and how to protect them, exploring the climate change drivers, plausible climate change impact scenarios, wetland vulnerabilities, and impacts/consequences and developing best practices, adaptive measures and strategies to enhance wetland resilience, and the types of adaptation related to resilience to allow our wetlands to resist, recover, and transform. In her 2020 report to the ECCC entitled “Assessing and Enhancing Coastal Wetland Resilience to Climate Change: Focus Group Discussions”, Linda Mortsch points out that “wetlands are crucially significant locally, provincially, and federally as well as internationally with respect to migratory birds or RAMSAR sites, for example.The RAMSAR organization and treaty is the oldest of the modern global intergovernmental environmental agreements. The Convention's mission is “the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world”. (Read a GBF/RAMSAR article about protecting wetlands from an invasive plant Phragmites.)Many coastal wetlands are large and provide disproportionately higher quality habitat than inland wetlands. Wetland-supported activities such as recreating, birding, nature viewing, and waterfowl hunting offer broad economic benefits. Moreover, wetlands functioning as “natural” or green infrastructure -- shoreline erosion protection, flood mitigation, water quality improvement -- avert losses and/or reduce capital costs. The most frequently cited negative consequence of not protecting resilience was habitat or biodiversity loss. Economic losses (infrastructure, property values) and exacerbation of erosion followed.”