Lake Macquarie’s wetlands cover an area equivalent to more than 3000 football fields, but few people even know they exist.

Lake Macquarie City Council Senior Sustainability Engagement Officer Margo Smith said wetlands were among the most important of Australia’s coastal ecosystems, providing habitat and a source of food for hundreds of native and migratory bird and fish species.

“We have more than 2300ha of wetlands in Lake Macquarie. That’s more than five times the size of Charlestown,” Ms Smith said.

“They range from salt-marsh and mangroves to freshwater swamps, and many of them act as a kind of hotel for migratory birds. Some travel thousands of kilometres each year to stop off in these places.”

Sunday 2 February is World Wetlands Day, marking the anniversary of the signing of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance in Iran in 1971.

Senior Sustainability Officer Margo Smith conducts a quadrant survey of mangroves at Booragul

Ms Smith said this year’s theme was ‘Wetlands and Biodiversity’.

“It’s a fitting theme for wetlands in Lake Mac. Belmont Wetlands alone provide habitat for more than 90 bird species, as well as many fish species, native trees and plants,” Ms Smith said.

Recent rehabilitation undertaken by Council, with funding support from the NSW Estuary Management Program, has improved wetlands at Booragul, Marmong Point, Swan Bay, Swansea Channel, Black Neds Bay and Salts Bay.

“The projects cover an area of almost 20ha and have included planting more than 4000 wetland plants,” Ms Smith said.

Further rehabilitation works are in the pipeline for Bonnells Bay saltmarsh and Belmont Lagoon, which adjoins Belmont Wetland State Park.

At 549ha, Belmont Wetlands is one of Lake Macquarie’s most significant wetlands, stretching from Redhead to Belmont and taking in Belmont Lagoon and Cold Tea Creek.

Belmont Wetlands State Park Board Secretary Grahame Feletti said the wetlands had a come a long way since being handed over for public use by BHP.

“A lot of people don’t know about these wetlands and their importance,” Mr Feletti said.

“We need to look after them, nurture them and respect them.”