Celebrating our wetlands

Andrew
Andrew Wagstaff
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February 2 about more than groundhogs and winter

AMHERST – There were few signs of life on the surface of the Amherst marsh during a visit this week, but the importance of this and other wetlands should not be lost on any of us, according to our local Ducks Unlimited representatives.
February 2 will mark this year’s World Wetlands Day, an initiative to raise public awareness of the vital functions performed by wetlands, and to promote wetland conservation.

“It’s a good opportunity to just educate the general public,” said Nic McLellan, conservation programs specialist for Ducks Unlimited. “It’s a designated day, so it just makes sense for us to be involved.”

Ducks Unlimited manages a large number of projects in Cumberland County, many of them in the marshlands along the Cumberland-Westmorland county border. They work with hundreds of private landowners, a good percentage of them in the agricultural field.

While wetlands are known for providing home for numerous species of waterfowl, they have a number of other benefits that may not be as well recognized, according to McLellan, including flood retention.

“Wetlands have the ability to retain water during periods of drought, and to absorb water during periods of high water,” he said. “They are also great filters for runoff. On the agricultural landscape, the high nutrients like bacteria, nitrates, phosphates and things that run farms, wetlands have the ability to filter those.”

The benefits to humans provided by wetlands are something people need to realize more, according to Ducks Unlimited communications co-ordinator Krista Elliott.

“Even if you don’t live anywhere near a wetland, you are still benefiting from it, because it filters groundwater and recreational water,” she said. “Look at how many people enjoying recreational activities on rivers or lakes. Wetlands help keep those clean by filtering out all those nutrients before they get into those watersheds.”

She referred to the algae problems experienced in Lake Winnipeg due to elevated nutrient levels in the lake caused by wetland degradation.

To celebrate World Wetlands Day, and to coincide with Groundhog Day, a special day of activities will be held at Shubenacadie Wildlife Park and the Greenwing Legacy Interpretation Centre on Sunday, Feb. 2. After Shubenacadie Sam makes his annual winter prediction at 8 a.m., the park’s wildlife enclosure will open until noon, with a guided nature walk of the wetland trail offered. Snowshoes will be provided if necessary.

“We will have different activities with kids to teach them about wetlands and why they are important,” said Elliott. “It’s a neat thing because kids get it – they understand once we explain it to them, and they bring that learning home to their parents and families.”

awagstaff@citizenrecord.ca

Twitter: @ADNandrew

Organizations: Ducks Unlimited, Greenwing Legacy Interpretation Centre

Geographic location: Cumberland County, Lake Winnipeg, Shubenacadie Wildlife Park

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  • PAUL SKIPPY FARROW
    January 27, 2014 - 23:25

    well no kidding sherlock holmes wonder y there is no activity on the marsh ,,,ITS WINTER TIME ,