Wetlands: A source of life for nature and man
10 things you didn’t know about Wetlands and their special importance
- February 2nd has been declared World Wetlands Day, thanks to the Ramsar Convention that was signed on 2.2.1977, aiming at the protection of wetlands with a global significance. The Ramsar Convention was also signed by Greece and 11 wetlands of our country are protected under it, among them the Evros, Axios and Aliakmonas river deltas, lake Kerkini and the Amvrakikos Gulf.
- Wetlands are considered to be some of the most productive ecosystems with a rich biodiversity. They have the capacity to transform solar radiation, carbon dioxide and several other elements into organic matter and nutrients that support the food chain. Hundreds of animal species, a significant percentage of which are endangered, find food and inhabit permanently or periodically in the flora- and fauna-rich environment of the wetlands.
- They function as filters of running rain water, retaining pollutants, agrochemicals and waste substances. Thus, the water that flows into the sea is clean and of an improved quality.
- The wetlands’ soil acts as a sponge that absorbs a great quantity of water which it periodically releases. As a result, the risk of flooding is reduced in the event of strong rainfalls, while at the same time the soil’s natural wetness in maintained during periods of drought.
- They are a shield against the greenhouse effect, since plants and watery masses in the wetlands absorb large quantities of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
- They contribute to the small fluctuation of environmental temperature, and as a result mitigate extreme weather conditions, so we can enjoy mild winters and cool summers.
- Plants cultivated near wetlands are less susceptible to periods of frost or heatwaves.
- They are valuable resources for agriculture, livestock farming and fishing.
- Thanks to their natural characteristics, the rich variety of their flora and fauna and the beauty of the rare waterfowl, wetlands comprise ideal destinations for research and educational excursions and ecotourism.
- Cultural value:All these important benefits of wetlands for man have lead a multitude of ancient civilisations to live near them (e.g. Egypt, Mesopotamia). According to ancient myths, the wetlands of ancient Greece were inhabited and protected by the Gods. In most wetlands, one will find archaeological and religious monuments, as well as the strong imprint of the water element on architecture, art, customs and mores.
In recent years, wetlands are in a dire situation because of man, and as result the quality of water is being degraded, their ecological value dissipated and their size significantly reduced (since the beginning of the century, the total extent of wetlands has been reduced by 65%).
Wetlands offer abundantly to man and the ecosystem a series of benefits of vital importance. Let’s protect them!