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Frequently Asked Questions on Wetlands 

Q1. What are wetlands?

Ans. Wetlands are important ecosystems where water is the major controlling factor of the physical environment. The Pakistan Wetlands Program has adopted Ramsar Definition of Wetlands according to which; ďAreas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static, flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water, the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six meters."

Q2a. What do they look like?

Ans. Wetlands take different shapes and forms in different environments. Marshy-area wetlands are saltwater systems that are flooded all year round. They support a variety of vegetations mostly growing out of water as emergent; fen wetlands are very much similar to bogs only that they have reduced acidity and mostly drain their water from underground or small streams. They look like meadows with grass-like plants; Peat-land Wetlands according to the Ramsar Convention, are landscapes with a peat deposit that may currently support a vegetation that is peat-forming, may not, or may lack vegetation entirely

Q2b. What are the different types of wetlands?

Ans. As a further elaboration to the above question, the Ramsar definition of wetlands also considers; ponds, water storage areas, seasonal flooding agricultural lands as well as marine, riverine and estuarine, all of these could be termed as wetlands. Not only this but costal zones with low tides is also covered under this definition.

Q3. Do wetlands have any particular length and depth?

Ans. Ramsar definition on wetlands provides specific depth for certain coastal and riparian wetlands. According to which it may incorporate islands or bodies of marine waters, the depth of which does not exceed six meters at low tideÖÖ

Q4. How they effect us?

Ans. Benefits of wetlands can best be understood by analyzing socio-economic functions. Wetlands and their resources make a significant, though largely unrecognised, contribution to Pakistanís economy. Both freshwater and marine fish, for example, form a noteworthy portion of fish production and exports. Further, they provide livelihoods for several rural communities such as fisher folk, hunters, graziers and forest users living close to wetlands. Other people also use wetland products on a daily basis. Fish and fish products, baskets, blinds and reed mats and herbal medicines comprise just a few examples of these products. Rural people, especially poor households, also extract and process wetlands material for meeting daily needs. Thatched roofs - a common sight in rural areas - are made from emergent wetlands vegetation and fire wood is often gathered from forests found around wetlands.

Q5. Why should we be concerned about them?

Ans. Wetlands perform several vital functions and it is due to these properties that these ecosystems hold a very significant position in our lives. Some of these are listed below; * Sustenance for agriculture, grazing and fisheries; * Provision of vital habitat for wildlife, especially waterfowl; * Maintenance of water quality and abatement of pollution; * Flood and erosion control; * Maintenance of both surface and underground water supplies; * Tourism, outdoor education, sport and recreation; and * Contribution to global climate control and stability.

Q6. Where are wetlands located in Pakistan?

Ans. Wetlands are practically found everywhere as long as they fulfill the basic definition. Pakistan is blessed with about 225 significant man-made and natural wetlands covering approximately 10% of the total land area of the country. Lakes, canals, dams and lagoons formed as part of Pakistanís extensive Indus Basin Irrigation System are classified as man-made wetlands. Natural wetlands, whether permanent or seasonal, exist as peat-lands, rivers, streams, lakes, marshes, estuaries, mudflats and inter-tidal areas. Pakistanís wetlands occur in a broad variety of ecological zones including arid, semi-arid, alpine and coastal areas.

Q7. What are the major threats to wetlands?

Ans. Our wetlands are generally degrading due to a whole range of humanĖinduced threats including the following: * Conversion of wetlands and their immediate surroundings for agriculture and other purposes; * Damming of rivers and changes in water flow regimes; * Over harvesting of many forms of wetlands resources; * Felling of timber and deforestation in the catchments areas; * Organic and inorganic pollution of wetlands; * Policy deficiencies and inadequate management. * Lack of awareness among the locals about the importance of wetlands,

Q8. What can we do to save them?

Ans. As custodians and users of the natural resources including wetlands, we are responsible for protecting and preserving this unique and enriched system. Our role as a group or even individuals can significantly contribute to the protection and management of wetlands; * Learn and Share: The first step would be to learn as much as possible about the wetlands. You can start off by visiting this website for regular updates and spread the word around for others to learn as well. Read about useful information and identify your role as an active conservationist. Share information and your learnings with others. * Be a true Conservationist: One major threat to wetlands is over use and wastage of water. Increase water demand is a constant threat to wetlands, so conserve water as mush as you can. * Avoid or Limit use of Chemicals: Household chemical detergents, toilet cleaners, pesticides and other such items can runoff to a nearby stream, water canal or pond thus disturbing and polluting the wetland ecosystems. Try to use organic supplements wherever possible. * Play your Role as an Activist: Conservation starts from home. Play your part as an active community member and preserve your local wetlands. Encourage others to take part as well.

Q9. What is the difference between manmade, constructed and natural wetland?

Ans. Man-made or constructed wetlands are the water bodies formed by construction of infrastructure, such as dams, spurs and barrages. They are artificial wetlands constructed for a particular purpose. Generally, they are used to treat wastewaters. These include reservoirs, lakes, marshes and canals. Whereas natural wetlands occur in nature and are formed by geophysical structure and hydrological functions. This type includes, rivers, freshwater and saline lakes pen, bogs, costal areas etc.

Q10. What type of plants and animals are found in wetlands?

Ans. A number of plants are found in wetlands, both submerged and emergent. Euglena, algae, hydrilla and coral reefs are examples of submerged wetland plants. Whereas, reed, thypha and lotus are emergent vegetation. A wide variety of wildlife exists in the wetland ecosystems; paramecium, water scoter, fishes, dolphins, water fowls are some prominent animal species. For more details, see question 13.

Q11. How wetlands effect global climate?

Ans. Wetlands are known to stabilize local climate conditions, particularly rainfall and temperatures. The wetlands are crucial as they serve as carbon sinks. If these ecosystems loose their stability, it might result in massive release of this global warming gas thus enhancing the green house effect.

Q12. Which type of crops are sometimes grown in wetlands?

Ans. Wetland soils are rich in organic matter. These fertile soils are often used for agricultural purposes. Usually rice paddies, cranberries and other similar corps have been found to grow in the wetland soils.

Q13. How are wetlands important to wildlife?

Ans. Pakistanís wetlands support a broad spectrum of important plant species and invertebrate and vertebrate animals. The latter includes a range of threatened, endemic and endangered species: five species of mammals, nine bird species, six forms of reptile, and about six freshwater, estuarine and marine fish types. Several of these animals are world famous such as the Indus Dolphin, Punjab Urial, Marsh Crocodile and Green and Olive Ridley Turtles. Many types of migratory birds including White-headed Duck, Siberian Cranes, Sarus Cranes, Greater Flamingos and Spot-billed Pelicans use Pakistanís wetlands as wintering grounds

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