Highly valuable environments
By Cushla McGaughey
World Wetlands Day was established in 1997 to raise awareness about the value of wetlands.
They include swamps, marshes, peat bogs, lakes and rivers, salt marshes, mudflats and mangroves.
Wetlands reduce flooding, filter water and recharge groundwater.
They create a rich, diverse habitat for hundreds of native plant, bird and invertebrate species.
The Ramsar Convention: recognising wetlands
World Wetlands Day is celebrated every year on 2 February to mark adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on 2 February 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar.
The Convention on Wetlands, known as the Ramsar Convention, provides the framework for national action and international cooperation on the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.
New Zealand became a party to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in December 1976.
By that time, we were already well on the way to losing nearly 90% of our original wetlands. We have six sites included in the List of Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar sites).
The significant Waikanae Estuary
Although not a Ramsar site, the Waikanae Estuary is a wetland of national significance, recognised as one of the highest value biodiversity sites in the Wellington region.
The Waikanae Estuary Scientific Reserve connects with the Kapiti Marine Reserve, which in turn connects with the Kapiti Island Nature Reserve. This provides a rare sequence of protection and a safe corridor for wildlife moving between land, river and sea habitats.
More species of coastal and aquatic birds visit or breed around the Waikanae Estuary than any other site on the Wellington coast, among them the highly versatile pukeko.
Love them or loathe them, the pukeko was voted Bird of the Year in 2011 and acclaimed as a great ambassador for New Zealand’s wetlands.
Pukeko have adapted well to habitat changes, but still prefer the shelter of tall wetland vegetation to raise their chicks.