..... Stumper Index
Stumper #18.
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- Waterfowl and Wetlands, Conservation and Climate -

In his "Travel Diaries of a Naturalist, III", naturalist and painter Peter Markham Scott (son of polar explorer Robert Falcon Scott and Chairman for 25 years of the World Wildlife Fund) says, "... for as long as I can remember I have been a naturalist with a perpetual itch to show wild nature to other people in the hope that they too will get as much delight from it as I have done. And the more people who become interested in the natural world and committed to it, the greater chance that wild nature will continue to exist."

Scott was influenced by that itch when, on a wintry day in December 1945 while bird watching at Slimbridge on the shore of the River Severn in Gloucestershire, England, he saw a single Lesser White-fronted Goose, a rare species, that had attached itself to a flock of Whitefronts. The sighting inspired him to establish a movement for conservation of wildfowl and their habitats. By the end of 1946 he had established at Slimbridge the nonprofit Wildfowl Trust where close encounters between people and wetland wildlife is encouraged and education explains the need for conservation. The movement and the Trust became world-renowned and an early model for wetlands conservation and education.

While it is easy to see that conservation of the world's wetlands is important from a naturalist's viewpoint, it is less obvious that conservation of an ecological niche comprising no more than six percent of Earth's surface might be of any real importance to our environment. Why are wetlands important? They can provide food and habitat for wildfowl, fish and other wildlife, flood protection, and water quality improvement. These benefits are lost when wetlands are drained and, in the resulting dryer habitat, decomposition of organic matter increases and so does the release of carbon dioxide. When wetlands are preserved or restored, organic matter decomposition is stable or slowed.

What climatic change might be affected by draining wetlands?


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