World Wetlands Day 2006 -- press releases from WWF

17/02/2006

http://www.wwf.org.au/news/iconic-wetlands-under-increasing-pressure-from-climate-change/

Iconic wetlands under increasing pressure from climate change

02 Feb 2006

Kakadu's world-renowned freshwater wetlands face a bleak future if global warming is allowed to run unchecked, says WWF, the global conservation organisation.

On this World Wetlands Day, WWF warns that Australia's iconic wetlands - including those in Kakadu and the Murray-Darling river system - could be devastated if average temperatures are allowed to rise by 4°C.

The Australian Government announced at the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate in January that it would follow an energy path that would result in more than a 100% increase in greenhouse gases by 2050.

Such an increase would lock Australia and the world on to a pathway towards a devastating 4°C rise in global average surface temperatures - with most of this increase to occur this century.

As global warming accelerates the rise in sea levels, the natural levees that stop saltwater from inundating coastal freshwater wetlands will be breached.

In Australia's iconic Kakadu wetlands, this will result in significant loss of the lily-carpeted waterways that support the area's rich biodiversity and bring more than 165,000 visitors to the area every year.

"If we allow climate change to continue unchecked, Australia's coastal wetlands will be irrevocably altered," says Averil Bones, WWF-Australia's Freshwater Policy Manager.

Rising temperatures will also affect Australia's inland wetlands, such as those in the Murray Darling Basin, by increasing evaporation rates, making droughts more severe and reducing river runoff in important river systems. As winter rainfall moves further south, these impacts will put our wetlands under even further pressures.

"In a country whose geography is dominated by arid deserts, the intrinsic value of our wetlands is plain," says Ms Bones.

"Australia has 64 internationally-recognised wetlands and over 900 nationally important wetlands. Northern Australia alone has 190 wetlands of national importance covering 9.3 million hectares. Many of these face significant pressures from climate change, water resource development and urban encroachment."

Australia must heed international calls on this World Wetlands Day, and give greater priority to the protection of Australia's important wetlands, including through the National Reserve System.

"We also look forward to the Queensland government fulfilling its commitment under the National Heritage Trust bilateral agreement, to introduce regulations to protect wetlands along the Great Barrier Reef coastline," said WWF's National Marine and Coastal Policy Officer Richard Leck.

More information
Charlie Stevens, Press Officer, WWF-Australia
Phone: 02 8202 1274
Mobile: 0424 649 689
Email: cstevens@wwf.org.au

Notes
A briefing paper on some of the impacts of a 4°C rise in average global temperatures, as allowed under the Australian Government's preferred energy plan, on Australia's natural icons, social welfare and economy is available by contacting the WWF-Australia Press Office on 02 8202 1274

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