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In celebration of World Wetlands Day, we spoke to noted wetlands ecologist, Dr. Janice Gilbert to find out how Georgian Bay wetlands are doing.
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Threats to Georgian Bay wetlands

The many coastal wetlands around Georgian Bay and Lake Huron are the source of life and habitat for so much of what is considered special in this area.

With more than 8,000 km of shoreline on The Bay and 3,700 aquatic marshes in Eastern and Northern Georgian Bay alone, these areas provide high quality habitat for fish, amphibians and reptiles, insects, birds, waterfowl, a variety of other land-based wildlife, as well as numerous in-water and coastal plant species.

When the wetlands change due to major and sustained changes in water levels, contaminants, agricultural development, urbanization or invasion by non-native species, so does the diversity and composition of the native ecosystems and all the species they contain.

The entire system is delicately balanced, and it does not take much to upset that fine balance. Wetlands are highly vulnerable to extremes, such as variations in temperature, precipitation, and evaporation. If water temperatures or pollutant levels rise, for instance, or if marshes turn into dry meadows, bush or forest, they can no longer support the same biodiversity. In many instances, the changes are both transformative and permanent.

In addition to their critical habitat functions, wetlands also play an important role in maintaining overall water quality. Wetlands perform a type of water treatment function, filtering sediments as well as contaminants such as pesticides from the air and water, which helps to control water pollution. They also filter excess nutrients, reducing harmful concentrations of phosphorous and nitrogen. Wetlands help to protect against flooding and can control shoreline erosion and infrastructure too.

Most wetlands in the Great Lakes have already been lost or degraded due to human disturbance.  More than 50% of wetlands in Lakes Michigan, Erie and Ontario have been negatively affected.  But in Lakes Superior and Huron, including Georgian Bay, over 70% have been minimally impacted.

Although Georgian Bay’s wetlands experienced some loss in surface area between 1986 and 2010, they remain abundant and in pristine condition, and are considered to be the least human-disturbed wetlands on the Great Lakes.

Read GBF's  interview with wetland ecologist,  Dr. Janice Gilbert on climate change threats to wetlands, top invasive species,  5 at-risk native species, 3 things that we can do.

The Great Lakes support more than 3,500 different species, approximately 80% of which rely upon The Bay’s coastal wetlands.

Your support enabled GBF to work with NASA and other partners to determine  impacts to wetlands over a long period of water declines. Read about the process and findings.
Last year your donations enabled GBF to work with over 16 communities to remove over 8000 kilograms of invasive Phragmites. This invasive plant spreads quickly, reducing wetlands to Phragmites monostands, diminishing habitat for native species and impairing the function of wetlands. Your donations are so important for the continuation of projects like these.

How can you help the wetlands? In so many ways. Tackle the invasive species Phragmites by registering for a free April workshop, space is limited and advance registration is required. Learn more about Invasive Phragmites on our website. And donate today to help our efforts and research to protect the Bay!
Photo enthusiasts!  If you want recognition and have a great picture of a Georgian Bay wetland that you want shared, please contact communications.
On World Wetlands Day, picture your favourite wetlands in Georgian Bay and remember how important they are to our lives, and the native creatures that we all love and enjoy in Georgian Bay. Let's all work together to continue to protect them!
 
A little about World Wetlands Day...

Groundhogs share this day with wetland appreciation! February 2nd  is a day that recognizes the important role that wetlands play in maintaining biodiversity and the value they bring to our lives. This celebration of wetlands began on Feb 2, 1997 - the anniversary of the signing of the Ramsar Convention in 1971. This is a treaty that is currently signed by about 169 contracting counties/parties that work on preserving wetlands and their sustainable use. Canada became a contracting party in May 1981 with about 37 internationally recognized Ramsar wetland sites including several in the Great Lakes and Georgian Bay watershed.

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramsar_Convention
http://www.ramsar.org/

 
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Georgian Bay Forever is a registered Canadian charity (# 89531 1066 RR 0001) that funds and supports scientific research and education that protects and enhances the waters of Georgian Bay, as part of the Great Lakes. American donors may receive a charitable deduction by making the gift payable to The Great Lakes Basin Conservancy, PO BOX 504, Gates Mils, OH, 44040-0504, USA

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