Wonderful Wetlands

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Three of Jamaica’s four Ramsar sites: Black River Lower Morass, Port Royal Mangroves and Portland Bight Wetlands

World Wetlands Day is observed every year on February 2. This day marks the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on in February 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea. The Convention is an intergovernmental treaty which provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.

The Ramsar Convention defines wetlands as “ areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six meters” e.g. mangroves, marshes also known as “morass” and even, coral reefs and seagrass beds.

According to the Ramsar website, there are currently over 2,300 Ramsar Sites around the world. They cover over 2.1 million square kilometres, an area larger than Mexico.

Jamaica currently has 4 sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Sites), with a surface area of 37,847 hectares.  The four Ramsar sites in Jamaica are: the Black River Lower Morass in St Elizabeth, Palisadoes – Port Royal in Kingston, Portland Bight Wetlands and Cays covering parts of Clarendon and St Catherine, and the Mason River Protected Area in Clarendon.

Here are some facts and statistics on wetlands in Jamaica and around the world:

  1. More than a billion people make a living from wetlands – fishing, rice farming, travel, tourism, water provision and more.
  2. Wetlands host a wide variety of life, protect coastlines, provide natural sponges against river flooding, and store carbon dioxide to regulate climate change.
  3. More than 64 per cent of the world’s wetlands have disappeared since 1900.
  4. Jamaica became the 104th party to join the convention on February 7, 1998.
  5. The Mason River Protected Area was designated a Ramsar site on December 6, 2011. It is the only inland wetland site in the entire Caribbean.
  6. The Black River Lower Morass is home to some 92 species of flowering plants in the wetland with some being endemic to Jamaica.

Read more about other wetland areas in Jamaica