Wetlands are like biological supermarkets where vast amounts of food let many organisms thrive. The seasonal water inundation provides suitable habitat for many plant and animal species. These are also the areas that cultivated the world’s agriculture.
The importance of wetlands
A wetland is an area of land that is covered by water or saturated with water. According to the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance or RAMSAR, wetlands are officially defined as “areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including the area of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six meters.”
Wetland ecosystems are also among the most productive and are comparable to rainforests and coral reefs, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). Wetlands also help in flood control, groundwater replenishment, sediment nutrient retention, and water purification.
The world’s wetlands are known to have paved the way for the rise of agriculture in many areas, with floodplains turned into rice fields and the semi-permanent water worlds turned into fish farms. Preservation of wetlands is important in making sure that the dependent agricultural lands can have sustainable sources of water and nutrients.
Wetlands in the Philippines
Wetlands can be categorized into two general categories: coastal wetlands, which include coral reefs, estuaries, and mangroves, and freshwater wetlands which include reservoirs, river basins, lakes, swamps, and marshes.
From Buguey Wetlands in Cagayan to Lake Sebu in South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat, the Philippines has a lot of wetlands across the country. These wetlands not only provide livelihoods through eco-tourism, but they also help cultivate surrounding agricultural lands. In Mindanao, a housewife capitalized on the swampy environment of a wetland to expand her passion for gardening.
Another farmer in La Union had a successful stint in growing giant taro on her farm located in a wetland area. Edna Bucales is a 54-year-old farmer in Bacnotan, La Union cultivating various mountain crops, but much of her income is associated with a giant swamp taro crop she planted near a brook. The year-round supply of water from a nearby brook enables her crops to grow efficiently despite the generally dry and warm climate of La Union.
According to the Society for the Conservation of Philippine Wetlands, four of the wetlands in the Philippines are declared Ramsar sites: Olango Island in Lapu-Lapu, Cebu, Naujan Lake National Park in Oriental Mindoro, Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary in Mindanao, and Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park in Sulu Sea. These are wetlands highly valued for their contribution to sustaining biodiversity and heritage.
Aside from the direct effects of climate change, wetlands around the world are facing various threats such as pollution, land conversion, and overexploitation.
Practicing sustainable farming methods, considering the local ecosystems in planning developments, and ensuring the efficient use of natural resources will help mitigate threats to the wetlands and prevent them from being cradles of biodiversity and agriculture to becoming lands of despair and drought.