Today is World Wetlands Day and the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand is calling on people to remember the importance of these areas.
In the Manawatu, about 98 percent of the wetlands have already been lost, but the Manawatu River mouth and estuary is the latest to gain Ramsar status as an important wetland.
The Manawatu Estuary is, in fact, one of the country's few remaining wetlands.
New Zealand has just six wetlands listed by Ramsar as having international importance: Manawatu River estuary; Waituna Lagoon, Southland; Farewell Spit, Nelson; Whangamarino, Waikato; Kopuatai Peat Dome, Waikato and Firth of Thames, Waikato.
Manawatu's 200ha estuary is home to a diverse range of birds, it supports a number of threatened New Zealand native species - 13 bird species, six fish species and four plant species.
It is also a popular fishing and whitebaiting location and has archaeological and cultural significance as site of early moa hunter settlements.
Department of conservation biodiversity manager Vivienne McGlynn said people had to learn to look after these areas.
"It is vital that they remain."
Wetlands perform a vital role in purifying fresh water, making it safe for human use by trapping sediments, nutrients and pollutants that would otherwise have a detrimental effect on human health.
Wetland is a collective term for permanently and intermittently wet land, shallow water and land-water margins. Wetlands also provide a wide range of wild and cultivated food sources, including fish, shellfish, rice, seaweeds and a range of other plants and animals.
Maintaining wetlands, rather than draining and clearing them to make way for development, provides a buffer zone of protection against some of the serious storms, floods, droughts and erosion that New Zealand has experienced in recent years. With climate change these weather extremes are likely to become even more frequent - and the protection provided by wetlands even more important.
The importance of wetlands has been celebrated since 1997 through World Wetlands Day.
- Manawatu Standard
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