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Healthy wetlands 'critical' to sustainable future

Healthy wetlands 'critical' to sustainable future

5 May 2015


Serra da Bodequena National Park Brasil

With less than four weeks to go until the Ramsar Convention’s key three-yearly meeting in Uruguay, Secretary General Dr Christopher Briggs says it is ‘critical’ that the world’s governments start to restore wetlands to a healthy state to ensure water in the ‘right quantity and quality is available for our future needs’. 

 Dr Briggs’ comments serve as a timely reminder of the monumental importance of wetlands management in protected areas.

 “Water sustains life and wetlands are the source of water and of sustainable development, but by 2050 global water demand is projected to increase by 55% according to the just-released Water Development Report 2015,” said Dr Briggs, who is preparing for the 12th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (COP12) in Punta del Este, from 1-9 June 2015. “To meet this growing demand for water it is critical that we start today to restore wetlands that ensure water is available in the right quantity and quality for our future needs.”


Dr Briggs pointed to the latest briefing note released by the Ramsar Convention which provides an overview of the most recent scientific research into the state of the world’s wetlands. This document sets out the key messages for delegates ahead of Ramsar’s COP12.

Dr Briggs said, “The negative trends shown by recent studies should serve as a call to Contracting Parties to avoid further wetland loss and degradation and to strengthen wetland assessment, monitoring and restoration.”

Key messages from the briefing note:

·         The global extent of wetlands is now estimated to have declined between 64-71% in the 20th century, and wetland losses and degradation continue worldwide. 

·         Because of wetland losses and degradation, people are deprived of the ecosystem services that wetlands provide. Adverse changes to wetlands, including coral reefs, are estimated to result in more than US$20 trillion in losses of ecosystem services annually.

·         Despite some positive news about Ramsar Sites, even these are under threat. For example, although populations of wetland species appear to be increasing in Ramsar Sites overall, populations of wetland species in Ramsar Sites in the tropics are decreasing.

·         While there are ongoing initiatives that will provide a more precise picture of the extent of the world’s wetlands, it is clear that there is a negative trend and wetlands are still being lost or degraded, resulting in negative impacts on biodiversity and other ecosystem services.

·         Policymakers have sufficient scientific information to understand the urgent need to take appropriate actions to conserve wetlands and their services to people.