Launch of The Economics of Ecosystem and Biodiversity for Water and Wetlands – How much is a wetland worth?

04/02/2013

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On the eve of the Convention’s World Wetlands Day, the report The Economics of Ecosystem and Biodiversity (TEEB) for Water and Wetlands was launched by the Ramsar Convention Secretariat, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Wetlands International and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), with the support of the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) and the Geneva Environment Network (GEN) secretariat.

Opening words were delivered by Mr. Jan Dusik, Acting Director of the UNEP Regional Office for Europe, who noted that water and wetlands as intimate parts of our life need care from governments but also from many other actors, and from Mr. José Romero, Head of the Rio Conventions at the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment, who said that the recommendations in the report are very useful for the Swiss government, for example, in terms of climate change and its impact on the water cycle, with wetlands and other ecosystems very much at risk. Mr. Romero highlighted the need to address the challenges that lay ahead in translating the recommendations into action.

(l-r): Jan Dusik, Nick Davidson and Patrick ten Brink

Ramsar’s Deputy Secretary General, Nick Davidson emphasised the importance of this publication for the Ramsar Convention. He noted that the critical roles of wetlands in storing and moving water, and sustaining the water cycle, are still not fully recognised and added that the Ramsar Contracting Parties have frequently asked for facts on the ‘value’ of wetlands to support their work nationally and internationally to manage wetlands wisely, concluding that this report more than adequately fills this gap. 

Following the introductory remarks, Nick Davidson introduced one of the principal authors of this report, Patrick ten Brink, Senior Fellow at the Institute for European Environmental Policy. Patrick’s clear and concise presentation did much to convince the audience of the utility of this report, with its recognition that wetlands are the “nexus” between water, food and energy, one of the most fundamental relationships - and challenges - for society. In reviewing the report he addressed first the benefits we derive from wetlands as well as losses we risk from destroying them, acknowledging the need for ‘measurement’ of these values to help us manage wetlands better. But he stressed that measurement itself is not enough: we need also to integrate the values of water and wetlands into decision making. Ensuring that wetlands and water-related ecosystem services become an integral part of water management will assist countries to make the transition to a resource efficient sustainable economy through diverse approaches such as investing in restoration, incorporating traditional knowledge, achieving sustainable tourism, and looking for synergies between restoration and poverty alleviation. He added that action at all levels and by all stakeholders is needed if the opportunities and benefits of working with water and wetlands are to be fully realised and the consequences of continuing wetland loss appreciated and acted upon.

About 60 participants attended the launch

Before the panel discussion, special remarks from Madame Michèle Künzler, Conseillère d’Etat, République and Canton de Genève, noted the relevance of this report in supporting the work of the Canton to manage their wetland resources, such as the ‘cross-border’ work with France in managing shared wetland resources and in the move towards returning rivers and streams to their more natural state after many years of channelization. 

Michèle Künzler (sitting next to Mr. Romero) talking about the water and wetland management work in the Canton of Geneva

In introducing the discussion panel, Nick Davidson noted that the figures presented in the report tell us that we have often greatly undervalued the importance of both coastal and inland wetlands. The figures show that, comparatively, inland and coastal wetlands deliver higher value per unit area than tropical forests. Comparing the average value (per hectare) for tropical forests suggests that the value for rivers and lakes is almost 1.5 times higher for inland vegetated wetlands (such as floodplains, marshes and swamps), over 8 times higher, and for coastal vegetated wetlands the figure is, remarkably, over 60 times (mangroves and saltmarshes) to over 100 times (coral reefs) higher. A very high proportion of the value of these inland and coastal wetlands comes from their water-related benefits, such as water purification and flood and storm mitigation.

Panel members (l-r): Nathalie Rizzotti (Senior Policy Advisor on Biodiversity, FOEN); Annukka Lipponnen (UNECE Water Convention); James Dalton (Coordinator Global Water Initiatives, IUCN); Nick Davidson (DSG, Ramsar Convention); Patrick ten Brink (Senior Fellow & Head of office, IEEP).

A panel discussion followed, with the panel members bringing a range of perspectives on how they would use the publication in their organization’s work. Panel members gave perspectives from the national (Nathalie Rizzotti, Swiss Federal Office for the Environment) and international levels (Annukka Lipponen, the UN Water Convention, UNECE; James Dalton, Coordinator Global Water Initiatives, IUCN). Their interventions showed how important it is now to make the key findings of the TEEB report understandable to multiple layers of stakeholders. The TEEB report stresses the high cost of degradation and the value of wetland restoration. It is now time to translate these findings into action.



Useful links:

Full TEEB Report on Water and Wetlands: download PDF here. See the executive summary here: in English and French [PDF].

Press briefing in English, French and Spanish.

The report was initiated by the Ramsar Convention Secretariat, with financial support from the Norwegian, Swiss and Finnish Governments and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It was produced by the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) and the Ramsar Convention Secretariat, in collaboration with The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) TEEB Office, the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Wetlands International, the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It benefited from contributions of case studies from around the globe, an extensive review process and discussion at the Rio+20 Conference, the Ramsar COP 11 in Bucharest, and the CBD COP11 in Hyderabad.
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