Wetlands: the discreet environmental agents

The importance of these bodies of water goes largely unnoticed on a day-to-day basis, but in their absence, life as we know it would not be possible. Thanks to their various ecosystem services, wetlands collaborate enormously with the water cycle, being substantial in the maintenance of flora and fauna around them. 

In simple words, wetlands are enormously diverse ecosystems, essential to maintain the water cycle. As background, it is important to mention the existence of the Ramsar Convention, an international agreement that took place in Iran in 1971. The objective of said international board was to promote the conservation and rational use of wetlands, being an important tool to unify criteria in around this fundamental ecosystem for life on earth.

According to Ramsar, a wetland corresponds to "the extensions of marshes, swamps and peat bogs, or surfaces covered with water, whether these are natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, stagnant or flowing, fresh, brackish or salty, including extensions of sea ​​water whose depth at low tide does not exceed six meters”. According to this definition, we can say that even rivers and lakes belong to the group of wetlands, information that many people ignore when hearing the word. Not only are swamps or swamps wetlands, but also bodies of water such as some beaches on our coast.

Why are wetlands important? Because they provide basic ecosystem services for life on our planet. They provide water and food, regulate the climate and soil erosion, are part of our cultures and religions, and support the formation of fertile soil by helping the nutrient cycle. That is why the protection and conservation of wetlands, not only in Chile but around the world, is an essential task to sustain life on our planet and contribute to the rescue of the environment. 

Chile is a loose and narrow country with a coastline along its entire territory, therefore it is not a mystery that we can find wetlands at different latitudes, heights or climates. Coastal wetlands such as Carrizal Bajo, located in the Atacama region, where various species of reptiles, mammals, and birds live; continental wetlands such as the famous Salar de Atacama in the Antofagasta region, where the famous flamingos or parinas live; and underground outcrops such as the Ciénagas del Name, Maule region, which are home to dozens of birds, including swans and herons.

SOURCE: Matías Donoso (@matiasdonosophoto on Instagram)