Friday 02 february 2024
Wetlands play a pivotal role in sustaining life on Earth. Covering only 6% of the Earth’s surface, they provide important ecosystem services such as flood mitigation, water quality improvement, and groundwater aquifer recharge, all while maintaining biodiversityCherry, J. A. (2011). Ecology of Wetland Ecosystems: Water, Substrate, and Life. Nature Education Knowledge 3(10):16.. However, wetlands are threatened by pollution, climate change, dams, agriculture and aquaculture, and human development. It is estimated that 64% of the world’s wetlands have been lost since the 1900s due to urbanisationRamsar (2018) Wetlands: essential for a sustainable urban future.. Between 300 million and 400 million people depend on wetlands.
As the urban population is projected to increase to 68% by 2050, more land will be needed for housing or economic activities. Wetlands may be destroyed in the pursuit of land for buildings, agriculture, and industry. And this is not a benefit for our humanity: ongoing wetland loss is driving a vicious cycle of declining biodiversity and deepening poverty.
World Wetlands Day
World Wetlands Day, celebrated every 2nd of February since 1997, marks the anniversary of the Convention on Wetlands, the first modern global multilateral environmental agreement that was adopted in 1971 and signed in Ramsar, Iran. It came into force in 1975. It was an initiative of organisations and countries “concerned about the increasing loss and degradation of wetland habitat for migratory waterbirds”Ramsar. (nd). History of the Convention. On World Wetlands Day 2024, we focus on how human well-being is interconnected to the health of wetlands.
From rice farming to fishing and tourism, wetlands contribute to job creation, poverty eradication, and economic growth.
Wetlands and human well-being
Even though we depend on it freshwater is scarce, constituting only 2.5% of the Earth’s water. In line with the World Health Organization’s One Health approach, the health of humans, animals, and ecosystems are closely intertwined. Wetlands, often referred to as the Earth’s kidneys, play a vital role in providing our freshwater. They also play an essential role in food security around the globe, as more than half of the world relies on wetland-grown produce.
Managing wetlands effectively can help also in improving mental well-being. The connection to nature fosters mindfulness and emotional balance, contributing to improved mental health. Moreover, wetlands provide recreational opportunities, offering spaces for activities like fishing, water sports, and swimming, allowing people to relax and manage stress.
From rice farming to fishing and tourism, wetlands contribute to job creation, poverty eradication, and economic growth. Additionally, wetlands have inspired cultures globally, with songs, dances, and stories expressing respect and reverence toward these vital ecosystems.
REWET: restoration and conservation of wetlands
The REWET project, a collaboration of universities, NGOs, companies and institutions across Europe funded by the European Union, investigates the potential of wetlands for the sustainable restoration and conservation of these valuable ecosystems. The research focuses, among other things, on monitoring biodiversity, greenhouse gas emissions and greenhouse gas absorption, and looks at various measures to optimise the absorption process.
REWET will develop sustainable business model to foster green growth, biodiversity and ecosystem services preservation and restoration, as well as social aspects including inclusiveness, governance, and gender aspects.
REWET research activities also focus on ecosystem services provided by restored wetlands and how long-term management result in investments with significant societal benefits. Project partners are engaging local communities and stakeholders by providing training and are developing a social monitor to track social acceptance of the wetlands.
Together with key stakeholders, REWET will develop sustainable business model to foster green growth, biodiversity and ecosystem services preservation and restoration, as well as social aspects including inclusiveness, governance, and gender aspects.
The research results of the different project partners will be integrated in tools, such as a Decision Support System for wetlands managers. REWET will also develop a roadmap for wetlands restoration in Europe with concrete recommendations, contributing to the EU 2030 climate and biodiversity targets.
It is time to recognise the role of wetlands
Wetlands, often overlooked and undervalued, are fundamental to human well-being and the health of the planet. As we celebrate World Wetlands Day, it is crucial to recognise the significance of wetlands and take positive actions for their conservation and restoration. Understanding their contributions, ensuring sustainable use, and attracting investments are essential steps. Joining the global effort, aligned with the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, can make a meaningful impact in safeguarding wetlands for the well-being of present and future generations.
|Cherry, J. A. (2011). Ecology of Wetland Ecosystems: Water, Substrate, and Life. Nature Education Knowledge 3(10):16.
|Ramsar (2018) Wetlands: essential for a sustainable urban future.
|Ramsar. (nd). History of the Convention