The United Nations General Assembly, in August 2021, adopted Resolution 75/317 that approved February 2 as World Wetlands Day for creation of awareness about wetlands. February 2 is also the anniversary of the Convention on Wetlands, adopted as an international treaty in 1971. Since the 1700s, over 80 percent of the wetlands in the world have suffered degradation as they are easier lost three times more than forests. There is a need to raise national and global awareness concerning wetlands for reversion of their loss and encouragement of actions for their conservation and restoration.
These ecosystems that ensure contribution to climate mitigation, biodiversity, climate adaptation, world economies, freshwater availability and many more. However, they are enlisted as one of the ecosystems which records the highest rates of loss, decline and degradation. Wetlands are unique ecosystems that are usually flooded by water, either permanently or temporarily. Wetlands are different from terrestrial land forms and water bodies, as they have the ability to aid vegetation of aquatic plants and adaptation to the anoxic hydric soils.
Wetlands perform ecosystem services for the benefits of the people.
Regarded as the most biologically diverse of all ecosystems for functioning as home to various kinds of plants and animal species; they form in different sizes, types and locations. In many parts of the world, there have been continuous developments on methods for assessment of wetland functions, general wetland condition and wetland ecological health. These methods, through creation of public sensitization concerning the functions provided by some wetlands, have greatly contributed to conservation of these lands.
These lands are beneficiary in many ways to people across the globe. These benefits are called ecosystem services such as water purification, stabilization of shorelines and storm protection, processing of carbon – carbon decomposition and sequestration – groundwater replenishment, water storage and flood control, support of plants and animals, and provision of nutrients and pollutants. Wetlands are also considered as reservoirs of biodiversity and provider of wetland products. However, the United Nations Millennium Ecosystem Assessment asserted that wetlands suffer more environmental degradation than any other ecosystem in the planet.
Niger Delta is known for its richness in biodiversity.
In Nigeria, there are exactly 11 wetlands of international significance with recognition on the Ramstar list. The estimation of the total area of wetlands in Nigeria is about 1,706,728 hectares. These wetlands are Lake Chad Wetlands in Borno State, Hadejia-Nguru Lake in Jigawa and Yobe States, Baturiya Wetlands in Jigawa State, Apoi Creek Forests in Bayelsa State, Upper Orashi Forests in Rivers State, Lower Kaduna-Middle Niger Floodplain in Niger State, Dagona Birds Sanctuary in Yobe State, Maladumba Lake in Bauchi State, Forge Islands in Kebbi State, Padam and Wase Lakes in Plateau State and Oguta Lake in Imo State.
The largest wetland in the whole of Nigeria is located within Niger Delta State and is also the third largest mangrove forest across Africa. It is specifically recognized for its richness in biodiversity and oil and gas resources. The Hadejia-Nguru Wetlands in Yobe State, on the other hand, is currently being threatened by reduced rainfall as a result of increasing population, upstream dam construction and overgrazing. Even the Lake Chad Basin has lost over 90 percent of its surface area to water abstraction for irrigation projects.
More conservation efforts needed to continue serving the people.
Wetlands accommodate a minimum of six percent of the surface of the Earth which includes swamps, marshes and bogs. They require adequate conservation to ensure continuous provision of ecosystem services. About half of the world’s population derive their basic water needs from inland freshwater wetlands. The same percent of people also depend on rice – a crop that grows in large quantities in natural and artificial wetlands – as their staple food. They are also responsible for supplying fuel, fiber and medicinal plants.