Importance of Wetlands
Canada has more than 1.2 million square kilometers of wetlands — an area greater than the size of Ontario. Wetlands are one of the most productive ecosystems on Earth and they offer valuable benefits to society.
Outdoor recreation enthusiasts retreat to wetlands to hunt, fish, trap and birdwatch and northern Canadian wetlands support a sustainable sphagnum peat industry. Wetlands also contribute to the economy by storing carbon, purifying water, regulating water flows, preventing erosion, filtering nutrients and providing wildlife habitat and food resources. Manmade infrastructure alternatives are costly and can’t replace the range of services.
Wetlands provide $4.27 billion/year in services worth for the Canadian economy. For every dollar invested in wetland conservation, Canadians receive $22 worth of services (Anielski et al., 2014).
Despite their evident value, more than 20 million hectares of Canada’s wetlands have been lost to urban, industrial, agricultural and recreational development since colonization (North American Wetlands Conservation Council (Canada), 1994). In settled areas, such as parts of southern Ontario, losses approach 90% (Ducks Unlimited Canada, 2010). Though society’s regard for the environment is increasing, we continue to lose nearly 12,000 ha of wetlands annually (Ducks Unlimited Canada, unpublished estimate).
The Canadian Wetland Roundtable is refining estimates of the economic value that wetlands provide — an important first step towards inspiring Canadians to consider the value of wetlands.