The University of Waterloo’s Ecohydrology Research Group, under the leadership of Canada Excellence Research Chair in Ecohydrology Philippe Van Cappellen, has launched a national discussion on wetland protection as part of World Wetlands Day, an annual international celebration of the signing of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.
On January 31, 2014 Van Cappellen’s group hosted the World Wetlands Day Symposium to bring together international scientists, economists and policy experts for a day of wetlands‑themed seminars, poster presentations and panel discussions. On the agenda was discussion of wetland conservation and sustainability, and how effective local, regional, national and international policies have helped to prevent their loss and degradation. Other topics included the economic benefits of wetlands and whether constructed wetlands might replace natural ones.
Given that wetlands cover 14 per cent of Canada, the country’s future and economy are dependent on the health of this unique ecosystem. Known as the “kidneys of the planet,” wetlands filter out excess nutrients and pollutants, such as heavy metals. They form an integral part of the climate system; contribute to the cycling of water, oxygen and carbon; provide flood protection; and protect shorelines against coastal erosion.
Putting wetlands and water-related ecosystem services at the centre of water management is critical to meeting the social, economic and environmental needs of a growing global population.