Tue, Feb 03, 2004 - Page 4 News List

Artificial wetland assists ecosystem

WETLANDS AT WORK Conservationists marked World Wetlands Day by showing the public a glimpse of the land they tend to in protecting the nation's wetlands


Responding to international calls for the protection of wetlands as part of World Wetlands Day, local conservationists yesterday revealed a plot of land in Taipei County featuring endemic and other species to stress the importance of preserving biological diversity.

Feb. 2 every year is World Wetlands Day, marking the date of the signing in Iran of the 1971 Convention on Wetlands.

Yesterday, volunteers from the Society of Wilderness showed reporters a concealed, man-made wetland in Taipei County's Wanli township. Wearing waterproof clothing, several volunteers demonstrated how they had built and maintained the wetland.

Covering one-third of a hectare, the site was reclaimed from abandoned cropland. The site has been turned into a shelter for more than 150 species of wetland plants, including the endemic yellow water lily (台灣萍蓬草).

The habitat for the yellow water lily was decreasing in size due to an increase in fallow land in recent years, said Huang Tz-yan (黃子晏), director of the society's conservation division. For example, Huang said, volunteers from the society in Taoyuan County have had to regularly work on the removal of soil that had accumulated there in places where the species was known to formerly flourish.

"When certain species of wetland plant face such a life-and-death situation, we relocate them in man-made shelters, like the one in Wanli," Huang said.

The society has built two refuges for wetland plants. The other is in Shuanglienpi in Ilan County.

Yesterday, the Ilan County government announced a new development in wetland protection, saying the nation's first waterfowl reserve had been established in the rain-soaked Ilan where a number of natural wetlands, both inland and coastal, exist.

In December, the Ilan County government declared a 17-hectare plot of land as a special wetland wildlife sanctuary. The land was part of a 350-hectare expanse of land for wildlife designated by the Council of Agriculture.

Huang said more than 80 plants were carefully being attended to by conservationists at the site in Shuanglienpi, the biological diversity of which is unusual in world terms.

However, part of the site had been embroiled in a dispute over title, Huang said.

"The building of earth dams, the use of pesticide and the raising of geese, sheep and other animals created threats to the ecological system," Huang said.

Huang said the theme of this year's World Wetlands Day was "From the mountains to the sea -- wetlands at work for us," which was intended to remind people of the beauty, diversity and utility of wetlands.

Wetland functions include storing and purifying fresh water, protecting against floods, replenishing the groundwater supply, stabilizing the shoreline, protecting against storms and acting as nurseries for freshwater or marine fish. They also provide people with places for recreation and education.

The society is currently monitoring more than 20 wetlands around the country.

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