Association of State Wetland Managers - Protecting the Nation's Wetlands.

The Compleat Wetlander: Wetlands Here, There and Everywhere Matter

February 2, 2013 was World Wetlands Day.  It marked the 42nd anniversary of the signing of the International Convention on Wetlands, generally called Ramsar after the city where it was signed.  At the same time the United Nations has declared 2013 to be the International Year of Water Co-operation.  The theme for this year’s World Wetlands Day was Wetlands and Water Management.

Throughout the world a variety of events were held to celebrate Ramsar.   Many of these occurred on one of the 2,087 sites that have been designated as wetlands of international importance under the Ramsar treaty signed by 164 countries.  Just in time for World Wetlands Day the United States reached an important milestone with the designation of the San Fransisco Bay/Estuary as the country’s 35th Wetland of International Importance.

The USA names important West Coast site

U.S. Places San Francisco Bay-Estuary Under Treaty Protection

In addition to the celebrations around the world, significant reports and studies about the importance of wetlands have been issued.  Most significant, on February 1 the United Nations Environment Program and partners published the report: The Economics of Ecosystem and Biodiversity for Water and Wetlands.

The key findings of the report include

  1. The water, food and energy nexus is one of the fundamental relationships and challenges for society.
  2. Water security is a major and increasing concern and wetlands provide a solution to this challenge.
  3. Water cycles are strongly dependent on wetlands.
  4. Wetlands play a key role in the water, carbon and nutrient cycles, but policies do not sufficiently take into account these interconnections.
  5. Wetlands support climate change mitigation and adaption, health, livelihoods, local development and poverty eradication.
  6. Wetland maintenance and restoration is often more cost efficient than man-made infrastructure solutions.
  7. Wetlands have been, and continue to be, lost or degraded, despite their economic value.

TEEB Report Highlights the Ecosystem Services Provided by Wetlands

The report documents the importance of wetlands in providing ecosystem services critical to worldwide economies.  It goes on to point out that understanding the value of wetlands’ services is only the first step.  It highlights the need for interdisciplinary approaches to addressing water, food and energy challenges at home and abroad.  Specifically government water management policies, laws and regulations need to be revised and transformed so that they encourage  protection and restoration of wetlands.  In the United States federal, state and local government routinely issue permits to alter wetlands to uplands or open water. Wetland losses from sea level rise, conversion to agriculture (generally not regulated in much of the United States) and illegal activities continue to occur.   Also troubling is evidence that the practice of creating or restoring wetlands to replace wetland lost may ultimately prove less successful  than anticipated as highlighted in a recent study: Restored wetlands can take a century to regenerate http://www.earthtimes.org/conservation/restored-wetlands-century-regenerate/1781/

It is exciting that celebrations of the importance of wetlands 42 years after the passage of the Ramsar treaty include hard science documenting the importance of protecting and restoring these vital resources.  Changes to federal, states, and local programs must occur to ensure natural resources and local economies are protected.  The report on The Economics of Ecosystem and Biodiversity for Water and Wetlands show us that the risks that will result from inaction are growing every higher.

The following links provide more information about the UNEP report and World Wetlands Day:

Ramsar + partners Press Release: Urgent need to focus on wetlands as natural solutions to global water crisis

The Economics of Ecosystem and Biodiversity for Water and Wetlands
Executive Summary
Full Report

Why Canada’s Wetlands Matter to the World

World Wetlands Day – 2nd February

World Wetlands Day Ramsar Website

Past World Wetland Days Ramsar Website

Ramsar Assessment of World Wetlands Day Final Report (2009)

World Wetlands Day 2013 Events

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