Miranda Leybourne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun
Ducks Unlimited Canada is celebrating World Wetlands Day today by encouraging people all across Canada to get outside and enjoy the benefits that come from being near wetlands and other places in nature.
World Wetlands Day, led by the Secretariat of the Convention on Wetlands, falls every Feb. 2, and marks the 1971 signing of the international Convention on Wetlands, Ducks Unlimited Canada’s (DUC) website says. Janine Massey, DUC’s chief marketing and communications officer, told the Sun that if more people understood the critical role wetlands play in the world’s ecosystem, they’d jump at the chance to aid in their conservation.
“[Wetlands] sit there looking so quiet. They’re easy to forget when they’re not in your own yard,” she said.
That’s why DUC’s theme for this year’s World Wetlands Day is “We All Need Wetlands.” The theme focuses on the ways being out in natural areas like wetlands can boost health and well-being.
According to a study published by scientists in 2019, spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with both health and well-being. The study showed that it didn’t matter how that time outside was achieved, whether through one long experience or shorter outings that added up to two hours. Compared to having no contact with nature during one week of the study, the likelihood of participants reporting good health or well-being during the week in which they were outside for 120 minutes was significantly greater.
A recent survey DUC commissioned showed that 90 per cent of participants reported that being out in nature reduced their stress, improved their mood and helped with their physical exercise routines.
In addition to encouraging people to explore wetlands themselves and reap the benefits of spending time out in nature, DUC also works closely with farmers and landowners across Canada to influence real change on the landscape, Massey said.
“A lot of our work in the Prairies is delivered through conservation agreements, easements and programs, and that programming is beneficial, particularly to agricultural land or crop producers.”
Wetlands bring benefits such as drought, flood and wildfire mitigation, and provide healthy habitats for pollinators. In marginal areas where wild grasslands and native plants grow, biodiversity thrives, Massey said. They also benefit soil health for producers.
“Being able to have marginal areas with native plant coverage, and being able to keep these riparian zones and areas beside bodies of natural water, does help in a whole bunch of ways to promote soil health,” she said.
These include the mitigation of extreme weather events, carbon sequestration (the storage of carbon) and the filtration of water systems. Wetlands also do a great job of processing and absorbing excess nutrients and contaminants, Massey said.
In 2024, DUC is striving to conserve and restore more than 15 million acres of wetlands and other natural habitats throughout Canada.