Thursday, February 2, 2006

Happy World Wetlands Day!

Today is the anniversary of the signing of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.  The IUCN has a story celebrating World Wetlands Day, with important wetlands links.  World Wetlands Day


The remainder of this post is drawn in part from

the European Commission DG Environment's excellent Science for the Environment service -- which today noted


the recent release of 5th Millennium Ecosystem Assessment report on Wetlands and Water.

The MA report was launched in November 2005 by Secretary General, Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, Peter Bridgewater at the COP9 of the Ramsar Convention. “Ecosystems & Human Well-being: Wetlands & Water Synthesis”.  Bridgewater noted “The degradation and loss of wetlands is more rapid than that of other ecosystems. Similarly, the status of both freshwater and coastal wetland species is deteriorating faster than those of other ecosystems.” 

The MA report covers a wide range of wetland ecosystems including rice-fields, estuaries mangroves, seagrass beds, lakes, rivers, marshes, and coastal regions to a depth of 6 meters at low tide level.

    The main findings of the report are:

    1. Wetlands are estimated to cover a minimum of 1,280 million hectares on a global scale.

    2. Wetland ecosystems provide many services that contribute to human well-being and poverty alleviation. The most important ones include fish supply, water availability, water purification and detoxification of wastes, climate regulation, mitigation of climate change, and flood regulation.

    3. More than 50% of wetlands in the developed countries were destroyed during the 20th century. Many types of wetlands worldwide continue to be degraded, converted, or lost, even though benefits gained from maintaining them are often greater than the benefits associated with their conversion.
    4.  Wetlands provide many non-marketed and marketed  benefits. The total economic value of unconverted wetlands is often greater than converted wetlands. For instance, in Canada, areas of intact freshwater marshes have a total economic value of $58,000 per hectare compared with $2,400 when drained marshes are used for agriculture.
    5. The degradation and loss of wetlands and wetland species is more rapid than those from other ecosystems.
    6. The primary direct drivers of wetland lost or degradation are development-related conversion of coastal ecosystems, leading to large-scale losses of habitats and services.
    7. Other drivers include diversion of freshwater flows, nitrogen loading, overharvesting, changes in water temperature, and species invasions.
    8. The primary indirect drivers of change have been the growth of human populations in coastal areas coupled with  growing economic activity.
    9. Global climate change and eutrophication are expected to aggravate the loss and degradation of many wetland ecosystems with adverse effects on human populations.   
    10. <>

      The report suggests implementing cross-sectoral and ecosystem-based approaches to wetland management (e.g. basin-scale management and integrated coastal zone management), rather existing sectoral approaches.  The main measures required to manage wetlands in a sustainable manner are:

      • Slowing and adapting to climate change
      • Slowing global growth in nutrient loading
      • Greater investments in agricultural science and technology and natural resource management
      • Strict regulation of marine fisheries, especially with regards to fishing quotas
      • Reducing the detrimental environmental impacts of aquaculture
      • Payments for ecosystem services provided by watersheds
      • Development of water markets and water pricing

For more, see the MA Report on Wetlands and Water

Biodiversity, Environmental Assessment, Governance/Management, Water Resources | Permalink

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