World Wetlands Day is not only a reminder for us to make more efforts to preserve and maintain wetlands as unique assets of Iran’s ecosystem, but from another point of view, it is also a reminder of the efforts of late Eskandar Firouz, the head of Iran’s environmental organization, during the establishment of the Ramsar meeting.
On the 13th of Bahman 1349 (1971 AD), a global agreement to protect wetlands was approved in Ramsar, Iran. This agreement is known as the “Ramsar Convention.” For this reason, the world’s people celebrate World Wetlands Day every year on February 2nd (13th of Bahman).
This international day is an excuse and a time to raise awareness about wetlands and their high ecological value. These wet areas, which fortunately are numerous in our country, undoubtedly cannot be replaced. Therefore, guarding and paying special attention to wetlands should be recognized as a public and national task. The 13th of Bahman, World Wetlands Day, can be considered as another new effort to rotect our ecosystem.
Knowing the wetland’s ecological values and uses is a prerequisite for protecting these water areas. World wetland day is a good opportunity to revive the protection of these irreplaceable biological resources and preserve and entrust them to future generations. These future generations will undoubtedly have serious questions and demands.
What is a wetland?
One of the difficulties faced by ecologists is the definition of a wetland. Although there are more or less different viewpoints in the definition of wetlands, they can be considered to have the following characteristics based on the definition of the “Ramsar International Convention-1971”: marshy and water-like areas or artificial or natural ponds that permanently or temporarily have standing water or be smooth, sweet or salty or semi-salty. The height of the water in these areas is at most six meters.
The main characteristic of wetlands is the relative settlement of water in them. In addition, they have sustainable plants compatible with the environment, and their water is static and shallow. They also have compacted organic materials that decompose slowly. On the other hand, animal and plant species are abundant in them. These plants are hydrophytes. Another characteristic of wetlands is their soil, which differs from the surrounding soil.
The species that can be found in wetlands are plants, animals, and microbes. Wetland plants are aquatic, semi-aquatic, and also water surface plants. It was in the 1970s that humans recognized the life-giving importance and ecological value of wetlands. Since that decade, many efforts have been made worldwide to identify and protect wetlands.
In the Ramsar Convention, more than 1220 wetlands were identified worldwide, of which 22 are in Iran. Wetlands play a very valuable and unique role in strengthening the soil, prevent the emergence of dust epicenters, controlling fires, purifying water, and strengthening underground resources. Wetlands can prevent desert expansion and play a role in maintaining dunes. In addition to all of this, wetlands are precious treasures of plant and animal genes.
Rare characteristics of Iran’s wetlands
Iranian wetlands sometimes have characteristics that are rare among the world’s wetlands. For example: – Lipar wetland in Sistan and Balochistan province is pink, beautiful, and eye-catching.
Interestingly, only four other wetlands have been send worldwide having the coloring characteristics of Lipa wetland. Only in the wetlands of Hormozgan can the coral stones of Iran be seen.
– Aqgol wetland of Hamedan has a history of 40 thousand years, which is very worthy of attention.
– Miqan Arak lagoon has a history of two thousand years and is one of the largest sources of sodium sulfate, with a world reputation.
In the wetlands of Hormozgan, only the water of the coral stones of Iran can be seen;
– Lambir Bastak Wetland in Hormozgan Province has emerged in a completely dry area, which is very surprising and rare from this point of view;
– Anzali wetland is also one of the most well-known wetlands in the world, and its ecological value is considered very important. A surprising feature is seen in this wetland in that it prevents the mixing of salty sea water with fresh water;
– Gilan’s Amirkalaye Wetland is one of the few freshwater wetlands in the world, which is only one kilometer away from the sea;
– Neor Lagoon in Ardabil has the world’s best quality trout in the world; Shadgan Lagoon is one of the most important natural assets of the world. All these are evidence of the unique value of Iran’s wetlands.
Birds of Iranian wetlands and their ecological value
Many rare birds of the world live in Iran’s wetlands. Migratory birds, famous for their rarity, spend their winter in the wetlands of Iran. From this point of view, Iran’s wetlands are the highway of migratory birds. The Fereydun Kenar lagoon annually hosts the only surviving Siberian crane, “Hope crane.” This Dorna passes a 5,000-kilometer road to reach Fereydun Kenar Lagoon.
The crested duck, the most beautiful duck in Iran, can be seen in the wetlands of the Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari provinces. Gandaman wetland of this province is known as one of the ten birdwatching wetlands of Iran, and its name is registered with the International Office of Water Birds in London. The wetlands of West Azerbaijan are also known as one of the seven most valuable corridors of migratory birds in the world. A rare “Oak Swimmer” bird can be seen in Bojag Lagoon, Gilan.
The dangers that threaten Iran’s wetlands
Wetlands are considered precious ecological assets of Iran. In addition to their ecological, economic, and tourism value, these areas should be considered places for basic botanical and zoological research. But these nationals’ assets are facing threats. Some of those risks that sometimes lead to irreparable losses and damages are listed as follows:
Digging illegal wells is one of those damages. There are 80 thousand of illegal wells in the wetlands of Mazandaran province. The entry of rural and urban sewage into wetlands is one of the other damages. The growth of coastal moss that leads to the death of fish, the uncontrolled movement of passers-by to some wetlands, trampling on the water rights of wetlands, the excessive harvesting of sand and water resources of wetlands, drainages, turning wetlands into agricultural land (a clear example is the summer work in Borujerd, which caused a lot of damage to the wetlands of this area), the indiscriminate hunting of birds and mammals around the wetlands, the introduction of agricultural poisons and the entry of industrial effluents into these water areas are among the dangers that Iran’s wetlands are dealing with.
The growth of plants incompatible with wetlands is another harmful factor that harms wetlands. These plants take the oxygen from the water and destroy the aquatic organisms. An example of such damage has been seen in the Eynak Rasht lagoon. To these, consecutive droughts should be added.
Experts warn that the disappearance of wetlands, in addition to irreparable ecological losses, will turn them into dangerous centers of dust and fine dust. The drying up of the Jazmurian wetland in Sistan and Baluchistan made this province face the devastating challenge of fine dust. In this wetland, the attack of locusts destroyed many aquatic plants and animals. Locusts appeared after inevitable droughts. The construction of dams has also caused a lot of damage to wetlands. The same is true of unmeasured and unstudied drainages. Even though fundamental works have been done to save the wetlands, the revitalization of the wetlands needs more effort and more optimal management.
43% of the country’s wetlands have become a source of dust. The director general of the wetland’s protection and restoration office of the Environmental Protection Organization said: 43% of the country’s wetlands have become the source and center of dust collection in different intensities.
Regarding impact of the country’s wetland conditions on dust, Arezoo Ashrafizadeh added: Out of the 3.4 million hectares of the country’s wetlands, nearly 43% have become the source and center of dust collection in varying degrees. She added: One of the effects of not realizing the water rights of wetlands and the destruction of these ecosystems is that large parts of their bed become a source of dust. Hamoon and Jazmurian wetlands are examples of these wetlands.
Ashrafizadeh, in response to ISNA’s question about whether the recent rains affected the restoration of wetlands or not? She explained: Unfortunately, the country’s rainfall this fall was below normal, but in recent weeks, we have seen better rainfall in the country compared to autumn, and fortunately, during these rains, some of the country’s wetlands, including the Hela wetland in Bushehr province and Maharloo in Fars province, have recovered from their previous conditions.
Let us protect Iran’s wetlands
The numerous wetlands of our country are considered national assets, and their loss will cause huge and irreparable losses. We need more than the efforts made to save the wetlands, compared to the damages that some have suffered, to convince us that wetlands are properly protected. It is clear that the loss of any wetland is a loss of a part of our ecosystem and will have dangerous consequences. An efficient solution must be found, and the rescue of the damaged wetlands must be put on the agenda more than ever. An example of such works is informing people to recognize the life-giving value of wetlands, something that must be done continuously. World Wetlands Day can be a start for a deeper look and solution to the country’s wetlands.