Wetlands are areas of high biodiversity and provide us with invaluable ecosystem services, including freshwater supply, hydrological buffering against floods and droughts, and climate regulation through carbon storage. Wetlands are also one of the fastest declining ecosystem types worldwide and the threats against them continue to increase. Information on the location of wetlands, their ecological character and their services is often sparse and difficult to find or access. The result is a limited coverage of wetlands in policies and management practices.
A wetland is a biome (an ecological area) that is either permanently or seasonally saturated with water. Marshes, swamps, peat bogs and fens, but also rivers, lakes, deltas and floodplains are all examples of wetlands, each defined by the flora and fauna they support. Located in different climates around the world both along coasts or inland, wetlands vary in size from isolated potholes to large salt marshes.
Hotspots of biodiversity; wetlands they are home to more than 100,000 freshwater species, essential for many amphibians and reptiles, for bird breeding and migration. For humans, wetlands provide invaluable ecosystem services. They regulate water availability and quality, filtration, purification, and nutrient cycling as well as provide food for millions of people. They absorb shocks from natural events such as floods and droughts and regulate climate through carbon storage.
Despite their richness in biodiversity and ecosystem services, wetlands are one of the fastest declining ecosystems worldwide – 64% of the world’s wetlands have disappeared since 1900. An increase in agricultural and urban land use change, infrastructure development, water diversion and pollution of air and water are some of the main factors causing their degradation and loss.
Information on the location of wetlands, their ecological character and their services is often sparse and difficult to find or access. Wetlands are often viewed as wastelands, to be drained, filled and converted to other purposes. Ignorance and misunderstanding of their role therefore results in limited coverage of wetlands in policies and management practices.