52 Climate actions – week 5



We hear a lot about deforestation and the need to protect and restore forests to reduce the effects of climate change, as well as the many other ecosystem services they provide. Of equal importance, but less well known, is the importance of the world’s wetlands as a carbon sink. They may be permanent or seasonal, including freshwater and coastal habitats, mudflats, mangroves, ponds and peat bogs, all of which are being lost at an alarming rate, due to land clearing, development and urbanization.

As well as sequestering carbon, wetlands provide critical services of water filtration and renewal of aquifers, habitat for amphibians, insects, crustaceans, fish, birds and visiting larger animals, breeding grounds for the world’s fish stock, protection from coastal erosion and inundation, flood mitigation, wildlife refuges during drought and more.

Our day to day activity has potential to impact on local wetlands. Chemicals from cleaning products, soaps, dyes, fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, litter and micro-plastics are all washed into the waterways through drainage and sewerage systems or by rain and flood events. By making more considered purchases and taking care with disposal we can help to protect our local waterways.

There are a few simple household swaps, such as changing to grey-water safe (low salt and phosphorous) kitchen and laundry detergent, using a powder dish-washing detergent rather than tablets – the “soluble” plastic wrappers break down into micro plastics that are washed into the waterways,and using vinegar and bicarb-soda for cleaning instead of harsh chemicals. Switch to a lower chemical ingredients shampoo, conditioner and soap, or try making your own. Never flush medication or chemicals down the loo.

Consider setting up a grey water filtration system at home. The water you recycle can then be used on the garden, and reminds us that the effect of any additional chemicals in the water will be felt close to home.

Get to know your local waterways. There may be a creek nearby, a lake in the park or even a small pond in your garden. Take some time to sit and observe. How does the water look and smell? (Don’t taste it unless you are certain it is safe to do so). Can you see any animals, small or large? What plants are growing in and around the water? Where does the water flow from – drains, gutters or over paddocks? Use google maps to zoom out and see what lies upstream and downstream. What are the possible likely impacts on the site?

Join your local “Friends of…” or Landcare group. You will have the opportunity to get together with friendly locals and learn more about your local waterways and how to protect them. If there isn’t an existing group, consider forming one. These groups are often involved in advocating to local council and government to better protect our important wetlands. For more ideas on how to look after wetlands see https://www.52climateactions.com/protect-and-restore-wetlands.

Our actions have an effect on the world around us. We can all take some small and simple steps to help protect vital wetlands and waterways.

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