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Give Back to Canada’s Wetlands

Photo: Cody Pytlak

World Wetlands Day is observed every February 2 in commemoration of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. It’s the perfect time to reflect on the global importance of these ecosystems, and to renew our commitment to protecting wetlands in Canada.

This year’s theme is ‘Urban Wetlands.’ About four billion of the world’s people live in urban areas, and this number is expected to surpass six billion by 2050. As cities grow, they often encroach upon wetlands. This limits the important benefits that these ecosystems are otherwise able to provide, such as reducing flood risk, improving air and water quality, stimulating tourism, and providing habitat for wildlife.

Holly Lightfoot, Bird Studies Canada’s Maritimes Marsh Monitoring Program Coordinator, cites one example underscoring the importance of wetlands to Canadians: “Many small communities and towns across the three Maritime provinces will experience the impacts of sea level rise and coastal flooding in the coming years. Maintaining coastal wetlands in these areas will be important in helping to buffer these impacts.”

Every year, volunteers in Bird Studies Canada’s Marsh Monitoring Programs (MMPs) give back to wetlands by tracking the health of marshes, bogs, and swamps, and the wildlife inhabiting them. Their contributions make it possible to draw conclusions about the statuses and trends of wildlife populations, and to guide conservation action. You can be part of this effort by joining an MMP in the Maritimes, Québec, the Great Lakes region, or Saskatchewan.

Maritimes MMP survey routes are available in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. Please tell us about a favourite wetland you’d like to survey! To get involved, please email Holly Lightfoot (

Andrew Coughlan ( would be happy to hear from those interested in surveying marsh birds for the Québec MMP. New volunteers are particularly needed in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Mauricie, Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean, and Bas-St-Laurent regions.

The Great Lakes MMP needs volunteers to monitor birds and/or frogs in Ontario, and in each state that borders the Great Lakes. For information on the program and upcoming webinars and training sessions, please contact Kathy Jones ( You can also check out available survey routes on our online map.

Volunteers are needed in Saskatchewan to install recording units for monitoring purposes in environments near wetlands. Please email LeeAnn Latremouille ( for more information.

MMPs are undertaken with financial support from: the Government of Canada (Employment and Social Development Canada; Environment and Climate Change Canada; National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces); the governments of Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island; Eastern Habitat Joint Venture; Great Lakes Restoration Initiative; John and Pat McCutcheon Charitable Foundation; the United States Environmental Protection Agency; the United States Fish and Wildlife Service; Wildlife Habitat Canada; Ducks Unlimited Canada; NB Wildlife Trust Fund; and PEI Wildlife Conservation Fund.

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