World Wetlands Day Symposium dives into world’s H2O crisis

Jan. 29, 2021

As the world faces a fresh-water crisis, the Institute for Environmental Sustainability (IES) at Mount Royal University is bringing together wetlands experts at a virtual World Wetlands Day Symposium on Feb. 2.

Celebrated to mark the protection of wetlands under the Ramsar Convention, the theme for the 2021 World Wetlands Day is Wetlands and Water, which highlights the crucial function of wetlands as a source of freshwater and promotes actions to restore and stop the loss of this wetland function.

In 2019, IES at Mount Royal began creating a hub for wetland sustainability knowledge exchange in Alberta, by gathering key stakeholders in wetland science, policy development, and practice in Alberta and across Western Canada to join the global celebration of World Wetlands Day. Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) and the Alberta NAWMP (North American Waterfowl Management Plan) Partnership are collaborating with MRU and IES to host the symposium.

“The world’s freshwater resources are under great threat from population growth, overexploitation and wetland losses, with models projecting severe droughts in parts of the world like Canada, which is home to a significant portion of the global freshwater resources,” said event organizer Felix Nwaishi, PhD, assistant professor in earth and environmental sciences at MRU. The symposium will feature four keynote papers, including Richard Petrone, PhD., discussing wetlands as "taps" on the world's water towers.

Protection of wetlands from loss and degradation is a key component of freshwater conservation because healthy wetlands function as the kidney of our environment by facilitating water storage, while removing contaminants and nutrients through biofiltration before discharging the water into aquatic freshwater bodies. These functions of wetlands support healthy freshwater systems by improving water quality and habitat conditions for humans and wildlife.

“The goal of this year’s World Wetlands Day celebration is to highlight the important contribution of wetlands to sustaining freshwater quantity and quality, said Nwaishi, “as well as the crucial need to advance wetland conservation and restoration efforts.”

World Wetlands Day celebrations are open to everyone interested in wetland conservation. Given that this year’s theme highlights the growing freshwater crisis that threatens our planet and its people, the event will feature presentations from speakers and groups who are conducting extensive research to understand and mitigate the impacts of human disturbances on freshwater resources.

“Wetlands are a critical aspect to environmental sustainability locally and globally. The symposium enables us to showcase the important and rigorous research and scholarship our faculty and students are conducting in the area of environmental sustainability,” said Connie Van der Byl, PhD, academic director of IES.

“The IES is all about collaboration and this event brings together various stakeholders and we are greatly appreciative of partnering with COSIA and Alberta NAWMP Partnership specifically.”

For more on World Wetlands Day or to attend online.

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Peter Glenn, Senior Media Relations Officer