Monday, February 2, 2015

Resources for World Wetlands Day

Resources for World Wetlands Day
by Susan Stephenson,

World Wetlands Day is celebrated each year on February 2. It marks the anniversary of the signing of the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar Convention) in Ramsar, Iran, on February 2 1971.

What is a wetland? ”A wetland is exactly what the name suggests: wet land. Wetlands are areas that are inundated by water cyclically, intermittently or permanently and can have fresh, brackish or salt water, which is generally still or slow moving. This covers a wide range of habitats, including lakes, lagoons, estuaries, rivers, floodplains, swamps, bogs, billabongs, marshes, coral reefs and seagrass beds.” (from Department of Environment and Heritage)

Wetlands are important, vitally important. They act as filters for rivers, habitats and breeding grounds for many species of birds, plants and animals, protect our shorelines and the quality of our water. Yet since 1900, 64%of the world’s wetlands have disappeared. World Wetlands Day is one way to help.

Here are some resources you might find useful for celebrating World Wetlands Day with your kids:

* The Australian Government's Department of the Environment has brochures, fact sheets, posters and information on animals and plants of wetlands, including links to other useful sites. (I think your kids would love the poster A great battle by artist Kaye Kessing which is available for download, although it’s about invasive species rather than wetlands per se.)

* Also from the Department of the Environment in Australia, a terrific Primary School resource for classrooms: Discovering Wetlands in Australia.

* If you live in NSW, the Department of Environment and Heritage has useful information, including the location of various recognised wetlands where you might be able to take students for a field trip.

* Ramsar’s World Wetlands Day website offers excellent promotional and educational materials, including organiser guides, posters, handouts and templates.

* Don’t forget to check your local library for books and other resources about wetlands. If you’re fortunate enough to live near a wetland, why not take kids there to explore? Ask them to document with cameras the variety of living things they see, and put these photos together to make a display later.

I live near an estuarine wetland. It brings me so much joy, as well as supporting an amazing variety of bird life. I hope you’ll join me in celebrating World Wetlands Day today with your kids and students, and make sure they understand our responsibility to protect these beautiful and vitally important places.

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