World wetlands day learning pack

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A wetland near Moscow, Russia

The World Wetlands Day occurs on February 2 every year. This environmental day was established by the United Nations to commemorate the signing of the International Convention on Wetlands, also called the Ramsar Convention in 1971 in Ramsar, Iran. Different activities and events are held around the world on this day to raise awareness about wetlands, a highly critical, threatened form of habitat.


Wetlands: One name, many definitions

Main article: Wetlands on Wikipedia

Ever seen a marsh or a swamp? If yes, then what you have seen is a wetland. Wetlands, as the name suggests, are patches of land that are really really wet. However, a patch of land that develops pools of water after a rain storm would not be considered a "wetland" though the land is wet. Wetlands have unique characteristics: they are generally distinguished from other water bodies or landforms based on:

  1. their water level and
  2. the types of plants that thrive within them.

Specifically, wetlands are characterized as having a water table that stands at or near the land surface either permanently or seasonally for a long enough period each year to support aquatic plants.[1][2] A concise definition is a community composed of hydric soil and hydrophytes.[3]

Wetlands have also been described as ecotones, providing a transition between dry land and water bodies.[4] Two scientists - Mitsch and Gosselink - who have written a scholarly book on Wetlands [5] write that

wetlands exist " the interface between truly terrestrial ecosystems and aquatic systems, making them inherently different from each other, yet highly dependent on both."[6]

Wetlands harbor a whole lot of species and that is what makes them special. They are not as turbulent as rivers and seas and oceans nor as dry as the land. Hence, they provide perfect conditions for the survival of living creatures. We will learn more about the biodiversity of wetlands in a later section.

Why are wetlands important?

Wetlands can be made of freshwater, brackish water or saltwater[7]. Based on where they lie and the nature of the land, wetlands can be classified into the following types:[8]
Inland wetlands
Natural Lakes/Ponds, Ox-bow lakes/ Cut-off meanders, Waterlogged areas (Seasonal), Playas, Swamps/marsh
Man-made Reservoirs, Tanks, Waterlogged areas, Abandoned quarries, Ash pond/cooling pond
Coastal wetlands
Natural Estuary, Lagoon, Creek, Backwater (Kayal), Bay, Tidal flat/Split/Bar, Coral reef, Rocky coast, Mangrove forest, Salt marsh/marsh vegetation, Other vegetation
Man-made Salt pans, Aquaculture

Some of these wetlands are seasonal - they are created during monsoon seasons or during flooding. Others are found all year round.

Location of the Pantanal wetland

How many marshes and swamps do you think are there around our planet? There must surely be hundreds of thousands of small and big swamps. Like the marshlands around Mumbai. Or the marshlands near the coasts of River Ganga. However, according to the International Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, there are 1950 wetlands of international importance covering around 1,900,000[7]. One of the world's largest natural wetlands is the Pantanal, which straddles Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay in South America[9]. Wetlands lie on all continents of the world except Antarctica[3]. Most of the world's natural wetlands are present in tropical regions.

Wetlands in India

India is a sub-tropical country rich in water. We get water from the monsoons and water from the Himalayan glaciers. India has huge rivers like the Ganga, Brahmaputra, Narmada and the Cauvery. Most of India's wetlands are straddled in the regions covered by these rivers. Some of the biggest wetlands in India include the Chilka lake in Orissa.



Additional reading

Global efforts

What you can do

A documentary on the world's freshwater habitats





  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b US EPA. Accessed Sep 25, 2011
  4. ^
  5. ^ Wetlands - Third edition
  6. ^ Mitsch, William J.; James G. Gosselink (2007-08-24). Wetlands (4th ed.). New York: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-0471699675. 
  7. ^ a b Ramsar official website Accessed: July 20, 2011
  8. ^ Wetlands of India Accessed: Jan 6, 2011
  9. ^ WWF Pantanal program Accessed: Sep 25, 2011

Semantic tags

Title World wetlands day learning pack Article is on this general topic Learning pack Author Collaborative
Specific location(s) where study was conducted Not noted General region where study was conducted Not noted State where study was conducted Pan-India
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