'Wetlands Day’ offers marsh tours
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) and a group of community organizations are partnering to coordinate the third annual Ramsar World Wetlands Day, set for 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 6 in the Kailua Longs parking structure.
The theme this year is “Caring for Wetlands — An Answer to Climate Change.” Exhibits will feature information about wetlands in Hawaii as well as interactive activities for children and families.
Chuck “Doc” Burrows and Dr. Paul Brennan will guide community members on bus tours in the Hamakua-Kawainui marsh complex and old Kailua, and Ati Jeffers-Fabro of DLNR’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife staff will lead walking tours of Hamakua Marsh. The band Hawaii Loa will join in the celebration with live music from 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
“Hawaii’s wetland ecosystems play a vital role in our watersheds, but are often overlooked when they should be protected,” Laura H. Thielen, DLNR’s chairperson, said in a news release.
“They serve as reservoirs for excess water from heavy storms that would otherwise cause flooding. Wetlands collect sediment, preventing runoff into the ocean that can damage coral reefs. By protecting our wetlands, community members contribute to their health and the health of surrounding natural environments,” she said.
The marsh is the largest extant wetland in Hawaii. It provides significant wetland habitat for the endangered waterbirds including the ‘alae ula (gallinule), ‘alae ke‘oke‘o (coot), ae‘o (stilt), and koloa (duck).
The DLNR is actively involved in protecting and preserving the Hamakua-Kawainui marsh complex. Division of Forestry and Wildlife staff are engaged in restoration at the marsh weekly, removing invasive species, planting native species, and facilitating other improvements within the marsh.
Ramsar World Wetlands Day is celebrated worldwide to commemorate the first wetlands convention held in Ramsar, Iran in February 1971. World Wetlands Day in Hawai‘i recognizes the 2005 designation of the Kawainui-Hamakua Marsh Complex as a Ramsar wetland of international importance.