Wetlands

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In honor of World Wetlands Day, celebrated each year on February 2, today’s Geography Word of the Day is wetlands.  A wetland is an area of land that is covered with water at or near the surface either year round or for varying parts of the year.  Wetlands are a distinct type of ecosystem, supporting both aquatic and terrestrial species.

Marshes, prairie potholes, vernal pools, playa lakes, bogs, swamps, and estuaries are just a few examples of wetlands.  Wetlands can be found at the intersection of fresh and saltwater in coastal areas and inland and the water found in these areas can be static or flowing, freshwater, brackish, or saline.

On February 2, 1971, the Convention on Wetlands, known as the Ramsar Convention was signed in Ramsar, Iran.  Since 1997, World Wetlands Day has been celebrated on this day in honor of that signing and to promote awareness about the dramatic loss of wetland areas around the world.

Coastal wetlands at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts. Photo: Kelly Fike/USFWS

Coastal wetlands at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts. Photo: Kelly Fike/USFWS

Ramsar sites are those areas that have been designated as Wetland of International Importance and contain representative, rare or unique wetlands, or wetlands that are important for conserving biological diversity (see the Ramsar Convention’s Criteria for Identifying Wetlands of International Importance).  There are currently over 2,227 Sites covering 214,875,598 hectares that have been designated as Ramsar sites (see also: GIS Data of the World’s Wetlands).

More: World Wetlands Day, Ramsar.org

Map showing the 2,227 Wetland of International Importance sites. From: Ramsar.org

Map showing the 2,227 Wetland of International Importance sites. From: Ramsar.org

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