The wonderland of wetlands

This week Department of Conservation community relations ranger Clare Moore talks about World Wetland Day

Swamp, geothermal, fen, estuary, lacustrine, bog, plutonic, riverine, tarn, ephemeral and nival: These seemingly unrelated words are the names for all the different types of wetland we have in New Zealand.

You cannot simply pass a wetland off as a smelly, wet, boggy nuisance, not when they are so varied, so rare and so interesting. Wetlands are internationally recognised as being very important, hence February 2 each year is World Wetlands Day marking the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on February 2, 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar.

This is an international date with a different theme and message on a relevant subject set each year by the Ramsar secretariat. This year has been designated by the United Nations as the International Year of Family Farming.

In recognition of the important relationship between farming and wetlands, the theme for World Wetlands Day 2014 is "wetlands and agriculture: partners for growth".

Wetlands have often been seen as a barrier to agriculture, and have been drained and reclaimed to make more farming land available.

But the essential role of wetlands in water purification of farm runoff, recycling nutrients, protecting land from flood damage and recharging groundwater aquifers - as well as offering recreation opportunities and supporting a rich diversity of wildlife - is now being acknowledged.

World Wetlands Day 2014 is a chance to showcase farming families and other organisations who are clearly demonstrating that protection of wetlands goes hand in hand with production from the land.

You will not find nival [snow-fed], geothermal [hot water/mud], or plutonic [underground] wetlands around the Marlborough Plains, but we are lucky enough to have some surviving wetlands of other kinds that remain within easy reach.

There is a great chance to explore a Marlborough wetland on Saturday and see how important they are in a modified landscape. There are activities at three of Marlborough's most significant lowland wetlands: the Para Wetland on State Highway 1, the Grovetown Lagoon and the Wither Hills Rarangi Wetland.

A booklet is available from the library, Department of Conservation, Wither Hills Winery and Fish and Game, which contains information about the wetlands and a timetable of activities for the day.

No bookings are required, and it is a great chance for you to have an in-depth and hands-on look at our local wetlands.

At Para Wetlands you can help plant trees and practise your duck calling from noon to 3pm.

Make your way to the Para weigh bridge, 1km north of Tuamarina.

At the Grovetown Lagoon you can jump on a kayak for an easy tour to learn about what is lurking in the lagoon, between 1pm and 4pm.

Travel to Steam Wharf Rd, Grovetown.

At the Wither Hills Rarangi Vineyard wetland you can explore the wetland and Rarangi Vineyard, and enjoy some homemade pizza. Entry is a gold coin donation that goes to the Grovetown Lagoon project.

This runs from 2pm to 5pm. Travel to 37 Rarangi Rd.

The Marlborough Express