February 2 – World wetland day

World Wetlands Day is celebrated on February 2 in all countries of the world. On that day in 1971, the Convention on the Protection of Wetlands was signed in the Iranian city of Ramsar and signed by 116 countries. Each State, upon accession or ratification, shall designate at least one wetland to be included in the list of those of international importance. The main objective of the application of the Convention is the conservation of wetlands that are habitats of wetland birds. One of the greatest achievements of the Ramsar Convention is the list of wetlands of international importance, which also includes four wetlands from Croatia: Kopački rit, Lonjsko and Mokro polje, Donji tok Neretve and ponds Crna Mlaka. The total surface of these areas is about 80,000 ha, of which only Kopački rit covers slightly more than 17,000 ha.

The Ramsar Convention wants to make reasonable use of wetlands and to launch a series of actions at community level to raise public awareness of the values of wetlands. So far, 116 countries party to the Wetlands Convention have inscribed 1,133 wetlands on the Ramsar List, with a total area of almost 720,000 km2. The Croatian representative signed the Convention in 1994.

What are wetland habitats according to the Ramsar Convention?

Wetland habitats generally represent the transition between permanent water bodies and dry areas. These are very diverse ecosystems that include 42 different types of wetland habitats within five wetland systems:

• Marine (coastal wetlands including rocky shores and coral reefs)

• Estuarine (including deltas, wetlands in the tidal zone and mangroves)

• Lacustrine (wetland habitats along lakes)

• River (wetland habitats along rivers and streams)

• Wetlands (swamps in the narrow sense of the word and bogs)

Wetland habitats make up 6% of the Earth’s surface, and represent one of the greatest values of biodiversity because 40% of all plant and animal species live in them. Drainage of wetlands to obtain agricultural land, regulation of river flows, pollution by municipal and industrial wastewater, overexploitation of their resources are just some of the human activities that have caused the disappearance and degradation of wetland habitats. It is only during the last few decades that human awareness of the value and importance of the biological and hydrological functions of wetland habitats has increased, and thus the need to harmonize the development of human activities with nature protection in general.