by Tanya Dreizin
When we think about Hawaiʻi, we visualize pristine beaches, lush rainforests, and immense volcanoes. What many of us don’t often realize are the importance and beauty of Hawaiʻi’s wetlands. Worldwide Wetlands Day is coming up on February 2nd, and it is a great opportunity to gain a better understanding of what wetlands are, what they do, and why they are important to our communities. Wetlands are land areas that are saturated with water, either permanently or seasonally, such that they take on the characteristics of a distinct ecosystem. They provide key services, such as mitigating natural disasters (protecting us from severe flooding and tsunamis) improving air and water quality, acting as natural water filters by taking waste out of our water, promoting human well-being, and even providing jobs (e.g., fishing).
Wetlands here in Hawaiʻi help protect us from storms and flooding and are home to many native plant and animal species. They are important and provide valuable ecosystems services, therefore we should pay attention to the fact that they are in danger. Oʻahu has lost 65% of its wetlands, and the statewide loss is 15%. This is not just a Hawaiʻi issue, but a worldwide crisis, as 64% of the world’s wetlands have disappeared in the last century alone.
Here are some ways we can work together to preserve our wetlands:
- Volunteer with wetland restoration groups
- Integrate wetlands into policy and planning
- Reduce excessive water consumption and harmful runoff
Interested in learning more about wetlands? Oʻahu is celebrating World Wetlands Day on February 3rd at the Hawea Heiau Complex and Keawawa Wetland from 9am – 1pm, hosted by Livable Hawaii Kai.