The INTECOL conference means to assess the status of global wetlands, identify knowledge gaps, foster greater collaboration and consistency in wetland science worldwide, and offer plain-spoken policy prescriptions for decision makers with an appeal to adopt them with urgency. July 2008.
Wetlands are areas of marshes, swamps, peatlands or water-covered surfaces, whether stagnant or flowing, fresh or brackish waters; they include floodplains or adjacent coastal areas, as well as islands or seawaters within wetlands.
This definition may not stress the importance that wetlands have for the environment, an importance which has also led them to be dubbed “the kidneys of the earth”, due to their role as natural filtering processes, replenishing groundwater and making it apt for human consumption.
Wetlands also regulate river volumes, slowing water flow in the rain season, thus preventing freshets and floods during such periods and droughts in the dry seasons. Furthermore, a large portion of the world’s food supply depends on wetlands, as they are the natural habitat for many crops and for one of our leading cereals: rice. Moreover, alluvial grasslands are the main source of food for bovine cattle, and most of the fish we consume live in wetlands during at least some part of their life cycle. Wetlands are the only natural habitat for many rare species, and these areas are vital for the diversity of animal and plant life in the world. They are also essential for some economies, as they are key attractions for ecological tourism or because they supply raw materials for the production of paper or basketry goods. Wetlands also have favorable micro and macroclimatic effects. The evapotranspiration generated by wetlands maintains local levels of humidity and rainfall.
It is estimated that approximately 8,600,000 sq. km. (around 6.4% of the earth’s land surface), an area somewhat larger than Europe, are covered by wetlands. Wetlands are found in every continent except Antarctica and in every climate, from the tropics to the tundra. However, it is calculated that since 1990, and with the alleged intention of recovering these lands for other uses, nearly half of the world’s wetlands have been destroyed, adding yet another threat to the many posed by human activity to the earth’s ecosystems.
As of 1971, the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat, an intergovernmental treaty signed in Ramsar, Iran, provides a framework for local action and international cooperation in the conservation and rational use of wetlands and wetland resources. More than 100 countries have ratified the Convention, contributing to draw up a list of nearly 900 wetlands protected by the Convention. This list is continuously expanded through the efforts of ecological organizations and the concern of some environmental ministries.
On November 18 through 26, 2002, the Eight Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention was held in Valencia, Spain. This meeting included a conference of NGOs and local communities who denounced the Parties’ general failure to implement the recommendations and resolutions adopted in previous conferences, and demanded stricter control to enforce them, emphasizing in particular the threat posed to wetlands by the growing number of large dams being built and the intensification of unsustainable agricultural and cattle-raising systems associated with these ecosystems.
Every year, World Wetlands Day is celebrated on 2 February. It marks the date of the signing of the Convention on Wetlands in 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar. Each year, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and groups of citizens at all levels of the community take this opportunity to carry out actions aimed at raising public awareness on the value and general benefits of wetlands and on the Ramsar Convention in particular.
Wetlands and the ecosystem services they provide are hugely valuable to people worldwide: this has been a key finding of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), its report to the Ramsar Convention (2005. Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Wetlands and Water), and the Ramsar Scientific and Technical Review Panel's (STRP) significant messages arising from the MA. The value of these wetlands and their associated ecosystem services has been estimated at US$14 trillion annually. Yet many of these services, such as the recharge of groundwater, water purification or aesthetic and cultural values are not immediately obvious when one looks at a wetland. January 2007 (pdf version).
Rios Vivos Coalition is one of the most important Latin American networks of NGOs and public organizations, featuring several programs concerning conservation, restoration and rational use of continental waters.
FVSA is an environmental NGO that operates on a national level, with the capacity to anticipate environmental conflicts and provide concrete solutions to solve them. It has a special freshwater and wetlands program.
Booklet providing an introduction to the social and economic values of wetlands. It defines wetlands and wetlands types and gives an overview of their values. The book includes several case studies from developing countries.
Bibliography compiled by the United States Department of Agriculture Staff from the Ecological Sciences Division of the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Water Quality Information Center at the National Agricultural Library.
Provides links to over 400 wetland websites in 27 categories, ranging from constructed wetlands, education, wetland functions, management and organizations to wetland regulations in the U.S., and rehabilitation and soils.
Wetlands are dangerous, scientists say, in the sense that they are ticking carbon bombs best left alone. To help stave off extreme climate change, existing wetlands should be enhanced and new wetlands created so they could capture more carbon. These issues are being discussed at the 8th INTECOL International Wetlands Conference held in Brazil 20-25 July 2008.
Wetlands are one of the world’s most valuable ecosystems, performing a variety of important ecological functions. However, planners have often seen wetlands as wasted land, which needs to be made economically productive. This research paper explores how local people manage wetlands in southwest Ethiopia, and examines the options for sustainable wetland development. January 2005.
The construction of a dam where the Senegal river emptied into the Atlantic Ocean was the cause of the massive destruction of Mauritania's Diawling National Park, home to one of Africa's biggest wetlands. A project to repair the damage through artificial flooding managed to rejuvenate the freshwater ecosystem with the help of local communities, setting an example for wetland rehabilitation in other areas. PDF document. April 2005.
This report by the United Nations University - Institute of Advanced Studies analyses the inter-linkages between different Multilateral Environmental Agreements in the context of the Pantanal as an example of how a greater focus on their synergies could help achieve sustainable development objectives. Pdf docuement. January 2005.
Wetlands have often been seen as wastelands, with governments seeking to drain them both to eliminate malaria and other water-borne diseases and to create more agricultural land. But now the world’s swamps, bogs and marshes are coming back into their own as science discovers the vital role they play in regulating water quality and quantity and influencing the local climate.
With more than 247,000 acres of mangroves, salt and freshwater marshes, Costa Rica's lower Tempisque River basin is one of the largest wetland systems in the Central America Pacific lowlands. But to the dismay of many ecologists, the basin has also become one of the country's most intensely farmed areas, accounting for almost all of the melon, half of the sugar cane and a third of the rice production in Costa Rica.