Monday, February 2, 2009
Happy World Wetlands Day!
Today is World Wetlands Day, which marks the signing of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Convention) in Ramsar, Iran, on Feb. 2, 1971. WWD was first celebrated in 1997, in order to raise public awareness of the value of our wetlands and to promote their conservation and care. Wetlands provide habitat for animals and plants, help control flooding and improve water quality by filtering and purifying pollutants and other materials. This year’s theme is “Upstream – Downstream: Wetlands Connect Us All.”
Locally, the Brisbane City Council is putting on several events next weekend to raise awareness of our wetlands. On Saturday, there’s “Paddle, Pedal and Paws” (as you can probably guess, this is a bike ride, kayak paddle and dog-walk event, all held separately…so it is not a triathlon). We will be holding a working bee that morning, where we’ll do our best to eradicate non-native plants around the boardwalk at the beach site.
Sunday is a music festival at nearby Nudgee Beach, We will be sharing a booth there with another local group, the Queensland Wader Study Group. We’ve been helping them with their displays on migratory birds. I’ve enjoyed learning about the wading birds in the Moreton Bay area that fly between here and Japan for breeding and feeding. We have a “sister” wetland in Japan called Yatsu Higata. This is an amazing habitat, because within the Tokyo Bay, pretty much all of the wetlands have been filled in with the exception of this 1km x 400m area, which is completely surrounded by city and freeway. A freeway ramp actually soars over part of the remaining wetland! It is enclosed on all four sides by concrete walls, just like a giant swimming pool. However, the tidal flats, composed of mud and sand, remain and it is flushed with the tides daily by two channels that connect it to Tokyo Bay. (To give you perspective of how much of the wetland is gone, this wetland used to be a part of Tokyo Bay...now it is 2km away!) Here’s a link to Yatsu Higata’s site for more info: http://www.yatsuhigata.jp/english/about/index.html. The migration map above shows some of the distances these birds travel, all the way to the top of the globe! I’ve also included a pic of the Black Winged Stilt, great legs! (Thanks to Wikipedia for this excellent photo.) This is one of the shorebirds that migrates back and forth between here and Japan. Shorebirds that have been flagged here in the Moreton Bay area have been seen in Yatsu Higata, and vice versa. With wetlands disappearing at an alarming rate, every square mile is critically important, even if it is in the form of a giant man-made pool.