Wetlands and Water – Guyana Chronicle

IF you live on the coast or in some hinterland regions, then you are most likely to live in or near wetlands. According to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, “Wetlands are areas of bog, fen, peat or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with static or flowing water, fresh , salty or salt, including areas of marine water the low tide depth does not exceed six meters. “Inland wetlands include ponds, lakes, fens, rivers, floodplains, marshes and marshes. Coastal wetlands include saltwater marshes, mangroves, lagoons, estuaries, and coral reefs such as fish ponds, rice paddles and salt pans Wetlands can be thought of as giant sponges, they absorb water from many different sources during wet periods, and release it slowly into the surrounding areas during dry periods. , wetlands can help reduce flooding, mitigate the effects of drought and replenish groundwater supplies.

On February 02, Guyana will join the rest of the world to observe World Wetlands Day, a day to reflect on the importance of wetlands and to highlight issues affecting these vital ecosystems. In fact, 2021 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the historic signing of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. This year’s theme ‘Wetlands and Water’ highlights wetlands as a freshwater source and encourages actions to restore and prevent loss. We face a growing freshwater crisis that threatens people and our planet. In fact, there is a growing global tension surrounding freshwater consumption. We consume more fresh water than nature can replenish, and we’re destroying the ecosystem that water and life all depend on in most wetlands. This year’s theme highlights the contribution of wetlands to the quantity and quality of freshwater on our planet.
One of the most important benefits that wetlands provide is their ability to maintain and improve water quality. When healthy, wetlands have a rich, natural diversity of plants and animals. These can act as filtration systems, removing sediment, nutrients and pollutants from water. The ability of wetlands to maintain and improve water quality is under threat because human activity and extreme weather conditions have had a significant impact on water flow, nutrient balance and biodiversity.
Changing water flow
The water regime is how rivers and wetlands change in response to rainfall and groundwater flow. It contains the amount of water present, as well as its length and location. There are many ways in which a water system can be affected, especially by humans. These include damming rivers, pumping water and building farm or bank dams that change drainage patterns.
Why do we need healthy wetlands? As well as improving and maintaining water quality, wetlands provide numerous other benefits to humans and other living beings:
* When healthy, their soils and vegetation can capture, process and store nutrients and / or contaminants, and if the natural rhythms and flows of the wetland are not disturbed, release potential stresses such as sediments, nutrients, acids and / or metals from the soil can be suspended;
* Healthy wetlands can help eliminate harmful bacteria, and wetlands can also be important in managing urban storm water and effluent by improving the removal of nutrients, suspended matter and pathogens from water before it returns to the environment ;
* Healthy wetland ecosystems such as mangroves and seagrass beds provide not only habitat for wildlife; they provide shelter for younger fish, allowing local fishing to thrive, and providing sources of income generation in local communities;
* Furthermore, in Guyana and other parts of the world, entire mangrove ecosystems have been proven to provide protection against natural hazards such as tsunamis and high tides.
* In addition, carbon and greenhouse gases are stored in wetland sinks instead of being released into the atmosphere.

Threats to wetlands
Wetlands are threatened by earthworks, drainage, water abstraction, climate change, poor agricultural practices, wild animals such as wild pigs, invasive plants and uncontrolled fires. The effects of these activities and trespasses include:
* Erosion, leading to increased sediment blocking light to aquatic plants and smothering aquatic animals;
* Introduction and removal of contaminants such as herbicides, insecticides and fungicides;
* Excessive supply of nutrients, leading to rapid and unpredictable growth of plants and algae, blocking light and, in the case of blue-green algal blooms, producing toxins affecting wildlife, stock and humans;
* Increase in water tables due to loss of vegetation;
* Increased soil salinity as salts found naturally in soils move closer to the surface where they can hinder vegetation growth; a
* Release acids and metals into the soil, which subsequently affects water quality. This can lead to fish disease, dominance of acid tolerant species, contamination of groundwater, reduced agricultural productivity and damage to infrastructure by corrosion.

Wetlands in Guyana
In Guyana, the northern Rupununi wetland is the largest in the country, covering 22,000 hectares of savannah and flooded forest. The Rupununi, Rewa and Essequibo rivers dominate the North Rupununi wetland and contain over 750 lakes, ponds and inlets. More than 400 species of fish, the highest variety of fish in the world for areas of similar size, are found in the Rupununi wetlands. This area is also home to some of the world’s most endangered giants – the Arapaima (largest freshwater fish), a giant river otter (the largest of the 13 species of otter), the black caiman (Alligatorinae isphamily the largest world), giant river turtles, harpy eagles (the largest bird of prey), the jaguar (the largest cat in South America) and hundreds of other plants and animals.

The Rupununi wetlands play a very important role in the lives of more than 5000 indigenous people of Guyana. The rivers and waterways found in the wetlands act as a source of drinking water and a main transportation route for the people living in the Rupununi.
The vegetation found in the wetlands is used by our native tribes to make crafts, traditional medicine, houses and sometimes food.

Protection of wetlands in Guyana
The Guyrove Mangrove Restoration Project was implemented during 2010-2013 under the National Institute of Agricultural Research and Extension. Following completion of the Project phase and given the importance of mangroves to Guyana’s coastal defenses, mangrove restoration and management was integrated into NAREI in 2014.
You can also do your bit to protect wetlands in Guyana. Tune in to radio and TV to hear about our celebration of wetlands.
Guyana Today 6:45h Wednesday, 27 January 104.1 Lite FM 10:00h Wednesday, 27 January Radio Bartica 17: 15h Wednesday, 27 January 102.5 FM 10:00h Thursday, 28 January 89.5 FM 12:00h Thursday, 28 January Radio Mabaruma 17:00h Thursday, 28 January Radio Lethem 17:00h Friday, 29 January

Visit our social media platforms to participate in our quiz competition and tune into our panel discussion. Happy Wetlands Day!
You can share your ideas and questions by sending letters to: “Our Earth, Our Environment”, C / O Communications Department, Environmental Protection Agency, Ganges Street, Sophia, GEORGETOWN, or email us at: eit. [email protected], follow us on Facebook and Instagram, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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