Wetlands are home to rich biodiversity and serve important ecological functions, such as absorbing floodwaters and filtering pollutants. They benefit humans, providing food, fresh water and a defense against climate change.

But wetlands face many threats, experts say, including developers who drain and fill them, farmers who divert water for crops, and engineers who build dams. According to the World Wildlife Fund, half of all wetlands have disappeared since 1900.

Endangered manatee in Florida’s wetlands (Courtesy of Keith Ramos)

The international community has committed to protecting 2,100 wetlands spanning 200 million hectares under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, a treaty named for the Iranian town where it was adopted in 1971.

The U.S. protects 1.8 million hectares under the convention. It also undertakes conservation and restoration efforts around the world, including:

  • Rehabilitation of Kenya’s East Aberdare Forest, which improved the water supply and provided much-needed wood, shade and fruit.
  • Support for the Wetlands for the Future training and capacity-building program in Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • Cooperation with China on wetlands conservation and management.
Wetlands in Zhalong Nature Reserve, Heilongjiang province, China (Courtesy of Riowe3)

World Wetlands Day is February 2. Raise awareness by tweeting your thoughts at #WorldWetlandsDay or #WetlandsForOurFuture. If you have a photo of a wetland, enter it into the Wetlands for Our Future photo contest between February 2 and March 2.