The wonderful world of wetlands

Every year, World Wetlands Day is celebrated on February 2nd to raise global awareness about the importance of wetlands for people and the planet. In the fight against climate change, these vital habitats are a natural solution with the ability to store 50 times more carbon than rainforests. Wetlands are also sources of livelihood, helping to sustain local communities and combat food insecurity. They generate an enormous number of jobs throughout the world, including a billion households that rely on growing and processing rice. And that’s just the beginning of why wetlands are so important to the planet and why we’ve teamed up with the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) to help protect them here at home, one wetland at a time.
The wonderful world of wetlands

A precious partnership

NCC is the country’s leader in accelerating the conservation of wetlands and biodiversity. Through a five-year partnership with NCC, we’re helping to preserve and restore wetlands across the country.

In October 2023, Intact announced its support of NCC’s initiative to protect nearly 200 hectares—twice the size of the Plains of Abraham—of the Great Jacques-Cartier Bog, a wetland in the greater Québec City area. This adds to the over 100 hectares that NCC has already helped protect in this bog.

“As insurers, we know that resilience also includes adapting to climate change. If we take a closer look at heavy rain events, we see they are now 50% more likely than they were in the 2000s. To adjust to this situation, we must protect natural assets like the Great Jacques-Cartier Bog. Our long-term partnership with the Nature Conservancy of Canada is a key part of Intact’s commitment to build resilient communities,” said Frédéric Cotnoir, Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer, Intact Financial Corporation.

Projects supported by Intact in 2023 included the Hastings Wildlife Junction in Ontario and the Keyhole Nature Reserve in New Brunswick. Intact will continue to support additional NCC projects throughout the remainder of our partnership.

Our partnership will preserve and restore these large wetland areas to help reduce the risk of flooding, help store carbon, and help maintain water quality and biodiversity in regions across Canada.

Wetlands—get your feet wet

Wetlands come in many forms. They’re neither totally dry nor completely underwater. The water could be salt, fresh or somewhere in between. Wetlands can be covered in water seasonally or permanently. Basically, a wetland is any land area that can keep water long enough for plants and soils specifically adapted to that type of environment to flourish. Here are some examples of wetlands:

  • Bogs
  • Fens
  • Peatlands
  • Swamps
  • Marshes

Wetlands by the numbers

Though wetlands only cover approximately 6% of the Earth’s surface, an impressive 40% of all plant and animal species live or breed in wetlands.

Canada has 25% of the planet’s wetlands, which account for roughly 14% of the country’s land area. Our wetlands are home to over 600 species of plants, animals and insects.

Sadly, 87% of wetlands have been lost globally in the last 300 years—54% since 1900 alone. Why is that? Because in the past, we didn’t understand the value of wetlands and they were thought of as wastelands. Many were drained, filled, dug up, or built on for agriculture, development and peat extraction. But now we know better and recognize their importance. In 1971, the Ramsar Convention was signed, and is the only international convention that deals with one ecosystem or habitat type—wetlands.

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Wetland superpowers

Wetlands are some of the most valuable ecosystems on the planet and act as giant sponges or reservoirs. In fact, they have greater species diversity and nutrient cycling than many other ecosystems—even more than rainforests and coral reefs! They:

  • absorb the impact of hydrologic events, such as large waves or floods
  • protect coastal areas from erosion
  • filter sediments and toxic substances
  • are a source of food (wild rice—a staple for half the world’s population, cranberries, fish, wildfowl), energy (peat, wood, charcoal), and building materials (lumber)
  • play an important role in the water cycle
  • offer valuable recreational areas for activities like hunting, fishing and birdwatching

A home to so many

From microscopic zooplankton to the mighty moose, wetlands are a habitat and food source for a wide variety of species, including:

  • ducks
  • salamanders
  • blackbirds
  • dragonflies
  • river otters
  • painted turtles
  • muskrats
  • beavers
  • and many more

Some animals spend their entire lives in the wetlands, while others spend only part. But no matter the species, each has adapted to using the wetland and its surrounding area in its own unique way.

NCC and Intact share the belief that when nature thrives, people thrive—and that’s why the wetlands matter, today on February 2nd, and everyday!