World Wetlands Day (Sunday February 2) provides an opportunity to highlight the important role wetlands play in our environment and to spotlight work being done to protect them.
A wetland is an area of land saturated with water permanently or seasonally. Wetlands include swamps and marshes, lakes and rivers, estuaries and tidal flats, wet grasslands and peat bogs.
Wetlands play a number of roles to keep our environment healthy, principally water purification, flood control and shoreline stability. They are considered the most biologically diverse ecosystem, providing a home to a wide range of plant and animal life.
The importance of wetlands was formally recognised in 1971 when an international Wetland Convention was signed in Ramsar, in Iran. This is the only global environmental treaty covering a particular ecosystem.
World Wetlands Day is held every year, on February 2, to mark the signing of the Wetlands Convention in Ramsar.
New Zealand is one of 168 countries to have signed the Ramsar Convention. The signatories have committed to the conservation and "wise use" of wetlands so they can be sustained economically, socially and environmentally. These countries have designated 2168 wetland sites, covering more than 206 million hectares, as internationally significant.
Six sites in New Zealand, covering more than 55,000 hectares, are included in the list of internationally significant wetlands. New Zealand’s Ramsar sites are:
Firth of Thames - Hauraki
Kopuatai Peat Dome - Waikato
Whangamarino wetland - Waikato
Manawatu River Estuary - Horowhenua
Farewell Spit - top of the South Island
Awarua Waituna Lagoon - Southland
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