To save ourselves, we need to save our wetlands, environmental activist Ted Lightfoot believes.
“Save the wetlands, you save the salmon, you save the beavers, you save the orcas, you save humanity,” Lightfoot said.
Lightfoot spoke Saturday in Langley at the unveiling of a weatherproof mural of an orca at the Kwantlen First Nation cultural centre for World Wetlands Day.
It took Lightfoot, a former biologist, a week to complete the mural, using different coloured tarpaulins and mother-of-pearl for the eyes.
Lightfoot planned to display the banner at another World Wetlands Day event later in the day.
“The importance of wetlands is paramount,” said Lightfoot.
“The killer whales are all dependant on the salmon.”
World Wetlands Day aims to raise global awareness about the vital role of wetlands by marking the anniversary of the 1971 creation of an worldwide agreement on wetlands in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea.
Canada is one of 170 countries that have signed the international convention on wetlands, called the Ramsar Convention, a treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.
This year, event organizers focused on wetlands as a natural solution to climate change.
Wetlands buffer coastlines from extreme weather, while coastal wetlands such as salt marshes, mangroves, seagrass beds, and coral reefs act like shock absorbers to reduce the intensity of waves, storm surges, and tsunamis.
Inland wetlands such as flood plains, rivers, lakes and swamps “function like sponges, absorbing and storing excess rainfall and reducing flood surges,” a ramsar.org online message states.
“Wetlands are the most effective carbon sinks on Earth.”
Since 1970, an estimated 35 per cent of the wetlands have been lost, releasing centuries of stored carbon.
“Individuals, communities and governments must work together to protect these amazing ecosystems, which help us prepare for, cope with and bounce back from the impacts of climate change.”
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Last year, Lightfoot was given an Environmental Hero Award for his work protecting the fish habitat and riparian area for Nathan Creek in North Langley.
Lightfoot formed the West Creek Awareness Group, and has been actively involved with WOLF (Watchers of Langley’s Forests), the Glen Valley Watershed Society, the Langley Field Naturalists and the Langley Environmental Partners Society.
Lightfoot built a mobile display trailer depicting beaver habitat and the beaver as a keystone species of Canada. At his own expense, he travelled across the country to raise awareness about the beaver, its habitat and importance to the history and natural environment.