The Future of Wetlands
As a Nordic contribution to the celebration of 40 years of global wetland conservation, Finland organised an international conference on 25 October 2011 in Helsinki on “The Future of Wetlands”. With support from the Nordic Council of Ministers, the Ministry of the Environment and the Metsähallitus Natural Heritage Service invited experts from Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden, the Europarc Federation and the Ramsar Secretariat to reflect on the current (deteriorating) state of wetlands, the failure to reach the 2010 biodiversity target, and to explore why wetlands are relevant, how we should interact in order to find more efficient and sustainable solutions, and how to increase the political commitment for the future.The 60 or so participants first listened to presentations about the achievements and future challenges for the Ramsar Convention (by Nick Davidson, the Ramsar Deputy Secretary General), how to put the “green” into green wetland economy (by Marianne Kettunen of the Institute for European Environmental Policy) and the state of wetlands in Finland (by Kaisu Aapala of the Finnish Environment Institute and Jorma Pessa of the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment). PDF files of these presentations and the programme of the conference can be found on Metsähallitus’s website.
Environment State Secretary Katariina Poskiparta opens
A panel, representing different stakeholders, continued the discussion on the above themes: Lennart Gladh (WWF Sweden), Petri Heinonen (United Paper Mills), Stig Johannson (IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas), Liisa Pietola (Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners), Jaakko Silpola (International Peat Society) and Heikki Toivonen (Finnish Environmental Institute) explained what wetland ecosystems meant to them and their respective constituency. They clarified that wetlands are much more than important bird areas, that wetland ecosystems include marine and estuarine areas, lakes, rivers, wet grasslands and forests, peatlands and man-made wetlands, covering the largest part of the Nordic countries.
The discussion then focused on the ecosystem services that this wetland infrastructure provides to our societies. The need was mentioned to identify and to demonstrate specific ecosystem values prior to taking development decisions, such as looking at wetland ecosystems as investment opportunities to restore the green infrastructure, and by doing so to assure a lasting provision of ecological services. With the analysis that wetland services underpin green and sustainable economies, the panellists showed that wetlands are key components of environment-based economies, such as forestry, agriculture, hunting, tourism and energy production. They convincingly argued that land-owners, public and private, large and small, are best suited to recognize the importance of their own “natural wetland capital”, and should be acknowledged as a category of resource users with a genuine interest and a significant potential to develop sustainable use patterns in the long term. This is a promising start indeed to increase the political wetland commitment for the future.
Tiina Nikkonen (of Metsähallitus) and Jussi Soramäki (of the Environment Ministry), Ramsar’s focal points in Finland, are to be congratulated and thanked for their efforts to organise this highly inspirational Ramsar 40th anniversary event.