By Lea Appulo, Wetlands International
Around 64% of wetlands have been lost since 1900 through drainage and conversion, and much of those that remain are under growing pressure from economic and infrastructure development. We need landscape scale and system approaches that take full account of wetland interactions and the full range of benefits these provide to society and nature.
Global policy frameworks acknowledge this and give countries the responsibility to mainstream the protection and restoration of wetlands or freshwater systems and their services as a vital strategy for a sustainable and secure world. The year 2015 was important due to the adoption of three major global policy agreements related to wetlands and climate change:
In order to reach the target of limiting the temperature increase to 1,5°C, it is of utmost importance to protect, restore and wisely manage wetland ecosystems. Wetlands are unique in their capability to store and capture large amounts of carbon. The conversion of natural wetland ecosystems leads to strong positive radiative forcing, thereby contributing to increases in the earth’s temperature¹. In particular GHG emissions from degraded peatlands represent circa 5% of the global total anthropogenic CO2 emissions². The EU is the second largest contributor of peatland emissions in the world, behind South-East Asia and ahead of the Russian Federation. These emissions can be effectively reduced by rewetting and restoring drained peatlands.
On 2 February 2017 the World Wetlands Day will focus on Wetlands for Disaster Risk Reduction to raise awareness and to highlight the vital roles of healthy wetlands in reducing the impacts of extreme events such as floods, droughts and cyclones on communities, and in helping to build resilience.
¹ Petrescu, A.M.R., et al (2015). The uncertain climate footprint of wetlands under human pressure.
² Joosten, H. (2009). The Global Peatland CO2 Picture. Peatland status and emissions in all countries of the world. Ede, Wetlands international.