Wednesday, 6 February 2013

A wetland a day keeps the water in our bay

February 2nd isn’t just about groundhogs and shadows. It’s also World Wetlands Day, the day the Convention on Wetlands was adopted in 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea. To read more about Ramsar Convention of Wetlands, please click here.

World Wetlands Day 2013 focused on the relationship between water and wetlands  and reflected on the interdependence between water and wetlands and the key role that wetlands play. Wetlands - marshes, bogs, fens and swamps - are an essential part of the water cycle and they play an important role in ensuring water quality. Wetlands are places we want to protect as primary sources of vital drinking water.

Wetlands are also essential to our environment - they filter pollutants from our water, help control floods, and provide habitat for numerous wildlife species, including many on the endangered list. A total of 33 per cent of Ontario and 14 per cent of Canada is wetland. Unfortunately, as much as 80 per cent of Ontario's wetlands have been lost to urbanization.

Here in Hamilton, we are fortunate to have one of the largest – and relatively undisturbed -  swamps in southwestern Ontario, the Beverly Swamp.  Located in Flamborough, this wetland is the source area for Spencer, Grindstone and Fairchild creeks and features a rich diversity of plant and animal life, including some that are rare to the Hamilton region.

We also are fortunate to have the Copetown Bog, a biologically significant bog that contains plants representative of Arctic muskeg vegetation, such as cranberries, pitcher plants, and sundew plants. "Summit Bog" is a wetland containing an island of sphagnum moss floating atop a bed of peat. Plants that prefer wet, acidic, and nutrient-poor conditions grow in and around the area. Because of its sensitivity, public use is not encouraged. However, the bog can be viewed from the Hamilton-to-Brantford Rail Trail, located just east of Highway 52 at Copetown.

The Vinemount Swamp is the largest wetland in the east end of the City of Hamilton and offers visitors a chance to see a wetland up close.  It encompasses the headwaters of both Stoney Creek and Forty Mile Creek and provides a significant amount of discharge to those streams. Although it does not rival the Beverly Swamp in overall size, it does have many similar features.  It’s definitely a place close to the City where you can get away to the quiet and beauty of Nature in minutes.

So the next time you use water to brush your teeth, make your coffee or shower in the morning, think about the wetland the water most likely spent part of its life slowly filtering through.  And imagine what your life would be like without the abundance of water and wetlands that Hamilton has to offer.

To learn more about wetlands and their importance in our ecosystems please visit:

Lindsay Davidson
HCA Information Officer
Hamilton Conservation Authority

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