These incredible images of lagoons, lakes, bogs and brooks are all winning entries in a competition to celebrate World Wetland’s Day today (Thursday, 2 February).
You can see a list of the winners’ names at the bottom of the page.
Icebergs on a black beach in Iceland, a wetland park in the centre of bustling Hong Kong and flocks of birds on lake in Finland all show the beauty and plight of this endangered habitat.
Wetlands are an area of land which holds moisture, either all year round or seasonally, such as saltwater swamps, flood plains, fens, meadows and ponds.
They are found on every continent in the world, except Antarctica, and cover six per cent of the land surface of the world.
They are essential to life on earth and even millions of years ago many dinosaur species depended on them for their food and safety.
But they are being lost or damaged more rapidly than any other ecosystem and in the last 100 years the amount of inland wetland in the world has halved.
This is mainly due to land reclamation, changes to agriculture, pollution, water diversions and other developments.
The results have been catastrophic to wildlife, with one third of amphibians, over 40 per cent of reptiles and 30 per cent of mammals pushed close to extinction.
“Wetland is arguably the hardest habitat to describe in words, which is precisely why it’s so rewarding to photograph,” said Martin Spray, WWT’s Chief Executive.
“These photos are all amazing examples of the diversity of wetlands across the globe and capture both their beauty and their vulnerability.”
The stunning snaps include a wetland haven with birds and butterflies in the centre of Hong Kong by Bridget Page, from London, and a lake in Bolivia coloured red-rich by mico-organisms living in its waters.
Another photo shows villagers collecting thatch in a canoe in the Okavango Delta in Botswana by Hilary Dean-Hughes, from Kent.
Birds can be seen flying in the mist at Siikalhhti in Finland, which sees hundreds of cranes arrive every autumn before flying south.
While the wetlands of the Salar de Atacama on one of the driest places on earth in northern Chile are shown in Dominque Brand’s photo.
The lagoons are spectacularly located under the snow-capped Licancabur Volcano, which towers at just under 6000 metres altitude.
Mark Lees was also highly commended for his picture of a polar bear straddling two ice bergs in Olga Strait Svalbard Archipelago in Norway, showing how these creatures survive in a harsh, environment as the Arctic diminishes in the face of global warming.
The largest wetlands in the world are the bogs of the Siberian lowlands in Russia, which cover 600,000km2, three times the size of Great Britain.
Wetlands are essential as they store and clean our water, protect against floods and nurture an enormous variety of life-forms.
WWT’s 2011/12 photography competition was launched on 1 September and has already received over 4,000 entries. The competition is divided into four seasonal heats and invites entries taken at WWT’s nine regional wetland centres as well as images taken around the world for the World Wetlands category.
The winter heat is currently open and judges will be looking for images that best represent the winter season to take forward to a national final where entrants will be in with a chance of winning prizes such as a 3-day bird of prey workshop in the Czech Republic, a 5-night eco-break to New York State and once-in-a-lifetime trip to Antarctica.
Winners of World Wetlands category autumn heat
- Mrs H Dean-Hughes – ‘Collecting Thatch’
- Mark Lees – ‘Polar Arc’
- Bridget Page – ‘City Wetlands’
- Anna-Liisa Pirhonen – ‘Morning Mist’
- David Cantrille – ‘Confrontation’
- Dominique Brand – ‘The Wetlands of the Salar de Atacama’
- David Howse – ‘African Jacana Walking on Water Lilies’
- Hiranmoy De – ‘Serenity’
- Christopher Waddell – ‘Jokulsarion Beach’
- Elise Arsenault – ‘RedLagoon’