Dilmah Conservation’s, recently launched, One Earth Nature Club (OnE) held its first educational workshop on ‘Wetlands, Lagoons and Estuarine Ecosystems’ on 27th August, 2016.
The One Earth Nature Club is driven by Dilmah Conservation’s belief that exposing the youth to nature and educating them on the importance of its protection is a crucial step in motivating them to join conservation efforts and tackle pressing environmental issues faced by the country. Dilmah Conservation has recognised that there are many young members of society eager and willing to join these efforts, but unfortunately they lack the skills and knowledge required to do so and more importantly, the support and guidance. Dilmah Conservation hopes that the One Earth Nature Club will be the much needed platform from which the Sri Lankan youth can be steered towards becoming successful environmentalists and conservationists. Educational workshops and excursions conducted by the One Earth Nature Club will provide members with the exclusive opportunity to meet with leading environmentalists of the country from whom they can gain invaluable knowledge and share their experiences with.
Keeping in line with this, the first educational workshop on ‘Wetlands, Lagoons and Estuarine Ecosystems’ aimed to inform the members of the significant and seemingly endless environmental benefits of these lesser known ecosystems, such as their role in reducing the impact of natural disasters, reducing erosion, storing large amounts of carbon and also supporting an enormous amount of biodiversity and endemism.
This educational workshop was held at the Visitor Centre at the Muthurajawela Wetland Sanctuary, which is Sri Lanka’s largest saline coastal peat bog and one of its major biodiversity hotspots. Home to 192 species of flora, 40 species of fish, 14 species of amphibians, 31 species of reptiles , 102 species of birds, 22 species of mammals, 48 species of butterflies and 22 species of odonates, it is clear why this immense marshland is regarded as a biological haven. In 1996, it was declared a sanctuary by the Sri Lankan government, in recognition of its ecological significance and is listed as one of 12 priority wetlands of Sri Lanka.
Dr. Vasantha Pahalawatharachchi and Syamila Corea, both experts from the National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA), Sri Lanka, welcomed the members with an enlightening presentation on ‘Sensitive Coastal Habitats’ and ‘Wetland Birds’, respectively. Dr. Vasantha Pahalawatharachchi presented an informative lecture on the various natural components of wetlands and the ecological processes that sustain the flora and fauna that thrives there. Syamila Corea followed this with a fascinating lecture on the species of birds found at Muthurajawela and wetland ecosystems in general, providing information on their various adaptations to survive in these unique environments.
The underlining message delivered by both lecturers was “Wetlands not Wastelands”; as they both elaborated on the many benefits of wetland ecosystems not only to the natural life residing their but to us and the world as a whole, stressing the importance of conserving these ecosystems.
Following the lectures, as part of a skill enhancement programme, members were given a lesson in the art of paddling a traditional boat, which proved to be quite a difficult task that required proper coordination. This was later followed by a field visit into the wetland sanctuary and lagoon, guided by the two lecturers, where members were able to get a closer look and gain a better understanding into the functioning of wetlands, also sighting various wildlife such as Red Wattled Lapwing, Purple Heron, Little Cormorant, and a Saltwater Crocodile.
This educational workshop, organized by Dilmah Conservation’s One Earth Nature Club, provided the opportunity for members to interact with like-minded nature enthusiasts of the country and to learn and share relevant information with each other. Hopefully, it is the first step in helping members work as a unit towards a united goal, and furthermore to helping them become leading environmentalists and conservationists of tomorrow.