WETLAND CONSERVATION AND RESTORATION IN THE CITY OF NIGERIA: USING MUNICIPAL PLANNING TOOLS TO PROTECT HIGH PRIORITY WETLANDS
1.0 Background to the Study
The world and Africa in particular are facing serious challenges in the area of environmental degradation. The most important and prominent challenge in Africa today is desertification and climate change. The rate at which forest is being depleted today due to population growth, indiscriminate logging, construction purposes and farming is alarming (Adewale et al., 2002). Nigeria as a geographic entity has been blessed with a rich and unique array of ecosystem and great variety of natural resources. Its broad climatic variation have resulted in a distinct North-South gradation of ecological formation which in turn has a direct bearing on the diversity of flora and fauna supporting more than 1340 species of animals and about 4600 species of plants (Marguba,1996).
Wetlands are essential for hydrological and ecological process and they support a rich fauna and flora, they have different habitats and are places where different species of flora and fauna live. Wetlands act as a water filter, nutrients and sediments are abundant and that makes it possible for many species to live (HNWCP, 1999).
1.1 Definitions of Wetland
A Wetland is an area of land where the soil is saturated with moisture either permanently or seasonally such areas may also be covered partially or completely by shallow pools of water. Wetlands are also defined as transitional land between terrestrial and aquatic system that are characterized by certain water regimes, plant species and soil characteristics (Winter, 2013).
Convention on wetlands of international importance (RAMSAR) defined wetland as areas of marsh, fen, peat land or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salty including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceeds six meters (6m).
Douglas (2009) defined wetland as geographic area with characteristics of both dry land and bodies of water. Wetland typically occur in low lying areas that receive fresh water at edges of lakes ponds streams, rivers or salt water from tides in coastal areas protected from waves. In wetlands water level called the water table is usually at above or just below the soil surface for enough time to restrict the growth of plant to those that are adapted to wet condition and promote the development of soil characteristic of wet environment (HNWCP, 1999).Wetlands are important to both human and wildlife, because they deliver a variety of beneficial ecosystems services such as supply of food, control of flood, cycling nutrients, filtering of water, removal of pollution and provision of habitats.
1.2 Distribution of Wet Lands
Wetlands are found on every continent (except Antarctica) and in climates ranging from tropic to the tundra. They occupy about six percent (6%) of the land surface of the world or approximately 890 million hectares (Douglas, 2009), they vary in location and size. Some wetlands cover a few million hectares while others are only a few thousand square meters (IUCN, 1980).
They are found in many countries such as the United Kingdom, Iraq, South Africa and the United states. Wetlands are the subject of conservation efforts and biodiversity action plan (NCF, 2010). Notable African wetlands indicated on the map of Africa are Logon flood plain in Cameroon, Amsuri Wetland of Ghana, Baobalon wetland in
Gambia, Seri wetland in Mali and Hadejia- Nguru Wetlands of Nigeria.
Nigeria is uniquely bestowed with fresh water wetlands and the coasted saline wetlands. The fresh water wetland comprises the Imo River, Lake Chad, River, Niger Delta, Cross River, Niger River and Benue River, while the coastal saline wetlands consist of the Cross river estuary, Imo River, and the Niger River (Zaccheaus, 2012). Wetlands are among the world most productive environment. They produce numerous products for man and wildlife. They provide economic and good opportunities to observe wildlife and also educate people during field and school practical on Ecology.
Indeed wetlands are considered as the most biologically diverse of all ecosystems
Nigerian wetland resources are currently being threatened by certain anthropogenic and bio-geophysical factors. Notable among such factors are population pressure, overgrazing, logging, unprecedented land reclamation, construction of dams, transportation routes and other infrastructures (Anonymous, 2006). Conservation of habitat does not always mean that people are not allowed to live, work and make use of specific environment, it aims at making sure that people do not over-exploit the environment so that the environment can keep on self renewal and regenerating for present and future use. It is quite unfortunate that despite the importance of this resource and the consequences of its deterioration effort on its conservation has not been yielding positive result. This largely may be due to lack of up to date information on the extent, rate and nature of depletion (Akinyemi et al., 2001).
Nigeria is a country richly endowed with both coastal and inland wetlands, which altogether cover about 3% of the country‟s land surface. These wetlands are of ecological, economic, social cultural, scientific and recreational significance.
Baturiya wetland is a part of Hadejia – Nguru wetlands which are located in the North eastern zone of Nigeria with an estimated area of 3500 square kilometers (HNWCP, 1999).The wetland currently support a population of about 1.5 million people engaged in various forms of livelihood such as fishing, farming and grazing. The area supports rich fisheries of which about 40 million Naira worth of fish is produced annually, according to 1989-90 estimate (Hollis et al., 1993).
In 1965, a Lion by name‟ Danjuma‟ was discovered in the wetland which was taken to the Emir of Hadejia and later in 1972 taken to Kano state zoological garden (Kabir, 2006).
1.3 Importance of Wetlands
An economically important plant locally called (Kabba‟ or Doum palm) Hyphaene thebaica yields over 40 million Naira from its products annually. The products are used for making ropes, mats, baskets and hats .They also provides employment for a good number of people within and outside the wetland (Becker, 1994).
The people produce large quantities of rice, wheat, cowpea and vegetables which are marketed to other parts of the country. The wetlands also support over 250,000 herds of cattle which encourage cattle traders, with an annual turnover of 416 million naira (HNWCP, 1999). Ecologically the wetlands serve as a natural barrier to the process of desertification and play a major role in the recharge of groundwater in the basin. It also harbours large numbers of diverse species of wildlife, particularly Pale arctic and afro tropical migrant water birds (Hollis et al., 1993, HNWCP, 1999).
Baturiya wetland reserve focuses on protecting the forest and conserving its natural resources in their domain. It also serves as a centre for recreational services, tourism excursion and scientific researches (Kabir, 2006). In theory, all grazing, fishing, woodcutting and farming are banned in the area, there is clear evidence that most of these activities are continuing in the area. There is a new feeder road to Baturiya village cutting a broad swath through the reserve, and wood cutting takes place along it and bodies of water in the early dry season are intensively fished.
1.4 Statement of the Problem
Hadejia-Nguru wetland has a high economic values and support farmers, herdsmen and fishermen. In recent years, the water has been severely reduced and the wetland is showing a signs of distress and the cover of shrub and grasses has been sparse in many years (Adams, 1993).The wetland has suffered from increasing severe drought since 1980s, the use of gasoline powered irrigation pumps has increased the number of lands that can be used for farming in the wetland (Hollis et al., 1993). There are increasing human activities which exert prevailing pressure and exploitation of the wetland. There is need for baseline information on the wetland.
1.5 Justification of the Study
HadejiaNgruru wetland support about 1.5 million farmers, herdsmen and fishermen, the wetland support wet season rice farming, flood recession agriculture and dry season farming using irrigation water source. The wetland also support herders men who often also farm and provide fuel wood and leaves for making mats and ropes, the lands are also grazed by Fulani cattle. The wetland is situated within an Sudan-Sahel ecological zone, characterized by desert encroachment, surrounded by large communities that utilize the diverse biological resources which calls for the need to preserve the wetland‟s rich biodiversity through sustainable exploitation. This is because the biological resources are potentially renewable and can strategically be conserved.
The vegetation survey and analysis along with floral checklist will highlight the basic information of Baturiya wetland and possibly provide the major strategic tool for its sustainable use and management strategy. One of the National conservation foundation (NCF) objectives are, increasing the number of researchers and academic community‟s effort around the wetland that will further enhance conservation action around the wetland. So far this has not been reported for Baturiya wetland at my current stage of knowledge, hence the necessity for this study.
1.6 Aim and Objectives
The aim of the study is to provide data and information on vegetation and conservation status of Baturiya wetland with the following objectives:
- To determine the vegetation composition of plant species in the study area
- To determine the regeneration potential of the trees in the study area.
- To determine the soil bulk density of the study area as possible determinant of regeneration potentials.
- To determine the canopy cover of trees as determinants of survival of the seedlings.
- To evaluate the level of anthropogenic impact on the wetland.
1.7 Research Hypotheses
- There is no vegetation similarity among the sampled plots.
- There is no significant regeneration potential of trees in the study area.
- There is no correlation between soil bulk density and natural regeneration of seedlings.
- There is no correlation between canopy ground cover and seedlings
- There is no anthropogenic impact on the study area.