In some parts of the world, February 2nd is a time to make weather predictions, and, while some of that did happen in coastal Louisiana, students and informal educators also gathered to celebrate World Wetlands Day. Celebrated internationally each year since 1997, World Wetlands Day commemorates the 1971 adoption of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and tries to raise awareness about the importance of wetlands to people and the planet; this year’s theme was “Wetlands for a Sustainable Urban Future.”
More than 100 students and educators gathered at the Bayou Terrebonne Waterlife Museum in Houma, LA for activities hosted by the South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center. Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act staff were in attendance to talk with students about the different types of wetlands we have in Louisiana. In addition to a scavenger hunt in the museum as they learned about the services that wetlands provide, students had the opportunity to get up close to wetland wildlife, learn about different wetland habitats, and think about how water moves through coastal and urban systems. Groups providing activities included Restore or Retreat, the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program, LSU Wildlife Hospital of LA, and the USDA Sugarcane Research Station. In addition to wildlife habitat, wetlands provide flood control, water purification, and sediment capture services, making them important for urban and rural communities.
World Migratory Bird Day was initiated over ten years ago as a way to raise global awareness for the conservation of migratory birds and their habitats. Each year, people around the world organize events, such as bird festivals, exhibitions, and bird-watching excursions to celebrate this day. All activities celebrating World Migratory Bird Day are tied together by a common theme. World Migratory Bird Day 2017 was officially celebrated on Saturday, May 13 with the theme “Their Future is Our Future,” which shed light on the interdependence between people, nature, and migratory animals — particularly birds. The goal of this year’s campaign is to raise awareness of the need for sustainable management of natural resources, including wetlands, demonstrating that bird conservation is crucial for the future of humanity.
Among the wetland attributes society aims to protect and restore are those that benefit wildlife, such as migratory birds. One of the best known functions of wetlands is to provide a habitat for birds to breed, nest, and rear their young. This natural resource is used for drinking water, feeding, shelter, and social interactions. Wetland vegetation provides protection for migratory birds from predators and destructive weather. The presence of an adequate shelter is often crucial to the survival of migratory birds.
The value of a wetland varies for each bird species depending on the amount of surface water, amount of moist soils present, and the duration of flooding. Other factors that commonly affect the value of wetlands to a specific bird species are availability of food and shelter and the presence or absence of predators within the wetland. Availability of water influences whether migratory birds will be present, how the birds will interact with the wetland, and which species will be present. Species of migratory birds may spend the winter months in the Southern United States using the wetlands for food and nutrients to sustain them for their journey north. Many migratory birds are highly dependent on wetlands during the migration and breeding seasons. Habitat loss in breeding areas means population loss for most wetland dependent birds.