Canada is blazing a trail in wetland restoration
The theme of World Wetlands Day this year is “restoration,” and it couldn’t come at a better time.
The theme of World Wetlands Day this year is "restoration," and it couldn't come at a better time. Canada's recent "30 x 30" pledge, a commitment to conserve 30 percent of land and water by 2030 and restore another 30 percent of the land that has been degraded, underscores the breadth of the task at hand. Canada has already lost up to 70 percent of its wetland habitat in southern areas (Wetland Policy Implementation in Canada, 1994). Meeting this goal will require innovative thinking, bold partnerships, investments in research, and on-the-ground action in communities nationwide.
Why are wetlands important?
Wetlands are nature's kidneys, filtering contaminants and excess nutrients to help clean our water. They are also an important defence in the face of climate change. According to an article published in Water Resources Research, wetlands were shown to have an atmospheric cooling effect (Cooling Effects Revealed by Modeling of Wetlands and Land-Atmosphere Interactions, 2022), in addition to trapping and storing carbon and protecting our communities from extreme weather events like floods and droughts. Wetlands are beautiful backdrops for outdoor recreational activities and provide homes to hundreds of species of wildlife, many of which are at risk.
Watch: Learn how wetlands work and the important role they play in flood mitigation.
What are we doing?
Recently Sackville, New Brunswick became North America's first accredited "Wetland City." The community is home to an award-winning 55-acre wetland park developed in partnership with Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC). A popular recreation area for residents and an important refuge for migratory birds and other wildlife, this forward-looking investment will continue paying out in dividends in the years to come. Research and modelling by the Government of New Brunswick has identified Sackville as an area at risk of flooding (Government of New Brunswick, Flood Hazard Maps, 2022).
Could "wetland cities" like Sackville be a model for the future? We hope so. Last year, DUC partnered with 16 leading insurance companies on "Nature Force," an initiative representing a landmark private investment in climate resiliency. The program will focus efforts on natural infrastructure projects, including wetland restorations, in areas surrounding urban centres with a priority on flood attenuation.
Wetland restoration has proven to be one of the best things we can do to bring back nature, ensure biodiversity thrives and that our communities are protected from the effects of climate change (Global priority areas for ecosystem restoration, 2020). DUC is one of the leaders in wetland restoration across Canada, having restored 3.1 million acres through projects and partnerships across the country (Pathways to Sustainability: DUC Annual Report, 2022). The non-profit organization is celebrating its 85th anniversary this year with an ambitious target of conserving, restoring and influencing 15 million additional acres. This will only be possible through collaboration and partnerships with governments, Indigenous Peoples, academic institutions, landowners, industries, like-minded organizations, and a thriving base of volunteers and supporters.
Watch: A decade-by-decade progression of wetland restoration work across North America since the 1930s, undertaken by Ducks Unlimited organizations in Canada, the United States and Mexico.
Outside of our cities, wetland restoration is a key component of healthy, sustainable rural landscapes. The agricultural industry, too, relies on nature to improve soil health, pollination services and climate resilience. DUC conducts research and partners with industry leaders, producers and landowners in rural areas on various farm programs, which incorporate best management practices while providing wildlife habitat.
Before and after: Use the slider to see the landscape change after DUC constructed a nutrient management pond on this P.E.I dairy farm. Today, the pond filters wastewater while providing wildlife habitat.
Further north, Canada is home to the vast boreal forest—considered to be the "Amazon of the North" —where one quarter of the world's peatlands can be found (The essential carbon service provided by northern peatlands, 2021). These moist and mossy habitats help mitigate drought and forest fires, filters water, and provides homes for wildlife. As horticultural interest in peat grows and natural resource industries expand, the need to conserve and to research and develop best management practices for land use and restoration becomes an important priority for organizations like DUC.
Education is part of the solution
The pen may be as mighty as the shovel when it comes to conserving our environment. In addition to conserving and restoring wetlands, DUC focuses on providing educational resources and training to a variety of audiences including communities, industries and youth. Initiatives like DUC's Wetland Centres of Excellence program encourages students to discover the value of wetlands to learn and meet the host of creatures that depend on them.
This World Wetlands Day, Canada is poised to elevate and accelerate its leading role in wetland restoration. With 85 years of experience, organizations like DUC can help meet our future pledges to the world, and to ourselves.
Learn more about Ducks Unlimited Canada and the work they do here.
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