Wetlands for Disaster Risk Reduction

Bonn, 2 February 2017 – Today is ‘World Wetlands Day,’ a global annual celebration of the vital socio-environmental role of wetlands and the anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands (1971) in the Iranian city of Ramsar. This convention, more commonly known as the Ramsar Convention, is a central partner of AEWA and CMS and is like CMS a member of the Biodiversity Liaison Group (BLG). The Ramsar Convention has 169 Contracting Parties and covers over 2,200 wetland sites, with a combined area of more than 2.1 million square kilometres.

Wetlands are areas of land that are flooded either seasonally or permanently and act as a defense against natural disasters such as cyclones, droughts and floods.  During the wet season, they act as ‘natural sponges,’ storing the excess rainfall and preventing flooding, while during the dry season they release water, which delays droughts and prevents water shortages.  Furthermore, many wetlands such as floodplains and inland deltas host hundreds of different species, whilst peatlands are important carbon sinks, amazingly storing twice the carbon as all of the world’s forests combined.

Unfortunately, 64 per cent of wetlands have disappeared since 1900 and the frequency of natural disasters has doubled in 35 years, which cost approximately US$3.3 trillion from 1980 to 2014. The theme for World Wetlands Day 2017 is ‘Wetlands for Disaster Risk Reduction,’ highlighting the importance of wetlands as a buffer for protecting communities from natural calamities. By controlling illegal fishing and dumping, clearing rubbish from wetlands and preventing the destruction or draining of wetlands, they will continue to provide long-term services for the communities that live nearby and help mitigate climate change.   

The theme of this year’s CMS COP12 is ‘Their Future is Our Future: Sustainable Development for Wildlife and People,’ also emphasizing the interdependence between people and the natural environment. Jacques Trouvilliez, Executive Secretary of the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA), said:

“Wetlands are essential for waterbird conservation – but as this year’s World Wetlands Day theme highlights, wetlands also play an important role in safeguarding people from disasters: they store a large supply of fresh water, protect us from tsunamis and tidal surges, reduce land erosion and provide countless other ecosystem services. The theme also underlines that wetland conservation is linked to the Sustainable Development Goals and global efforts to achieve a planet that support its human residents as well as a rich biodiversity – now and into the future.”

Clearly, wetlands provide habitat for countless migratory species, such as flamingoes or ducks, dugongs, marine turtles and other animals that are protected by AEWA, CMS and its specialized instruments, while also being of vital importance to the economy and wellbeing of people. We hope that wetlands will be conserved, as their long-term benefits for ecosystems and people are irreplaceable.

For further information, please visit the World Wetlands Day website: http://www.worldwetlandsday.org/


Last updated on 09 May 2017

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