Wetlands are low-lying areas of land covered by water long enough to support aquatic plants and wildlife for part of all of their life cycle. More specifically, Alberta's Wetland Policy defines wetlands as:
"Land saturated with water long enough to promote wetland or aquatic processes as indicated by poorly drained soils, hydrophytic (water loving) vegetation, and various kinds of biological activity that are adapted to a wet environment."
Wetlands are highly diverse, productive ecosystems that provide a host of ecological services and form an integral component of Alberta's diverse landscapes.
They play an important role in sustaining healthy watersheds by:
- protecting water quality
- providing water storage and infiltration
- providing habitat for wildlife, fish and plants
- sustaining biodiversity
Wetlands in Alberta are estimated to host some 400 species of plants, some of which are listed as rare, threatened or endangered in the province.
Wetlands also provide the basis for a wide variety of human activities, including:
- importance to many First Nation and Métis people for cultural and traditional uses
- recreational pursuits
Wetlands are also important to agriculture and forest industries and play a significant role in wildlife conservation program. Peatlands in the province also support peat harvesting (that is, making peat moss) for the horticultural market.
It is estimated that Alberta has lost between 60 to 70% of the wetlands in the settled areas. Wetlands are now being seen as something we need to retain and even enhance as they are recognized as a key component to maintaining healthy farms, acreages and communities. Alberta's Wetland Policy plays an important part in both recognizing the value of wetlands and retaining them on our landscapes.
The Alberta North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP) Partnership conserves and protects Alberta's wetland resources and associated upland habitat. With the support, resources, knowledge base and experience of its partners, Alberta NAWMP employs a unique and successful approach to wetland and waterfowl conservation.
Ducks Unlimited Canada's (DUC) conservation efforts are part of a bigger conservation approach that spans across Canada, the United States and Mexico. DUC is a part of NAWMP and their international conservation program is aimed at restoring waterfowl populations to average levels enjoyed in the 1970s.
This document provides the full text for the Alberta Wetland Policy.
This site provides timely and relevant information to help Albertans conserve and protect wetlands: Wetlands Alberta.
This site provides excellent resources to help youth learn about wetlands and waterfowl: Ducks Unlimited Canada – Education Page.
This education kit for Grade 5 Teachers combines a variety of hands-on, interactive materials with inquiry based learning: Wetlands: Webbed Feet Not Required.