Wetlands need to be delivering climate solutions: Global Wetland Outlook 2021

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Climate change and agriculture are key drivers for wetland degradation, however, wetlands can be and need to be part of delivering climate solutions that also promises to be the future of sustainable food production, the Global Wetland Outlook 2021 has said.

Stating that impacts of agriculture on wetlands are becoming more apparent and how agriculture has become a key driver of wetland degradation, the Outlook 2021 said: “(But) the future of sustainable food production is dependent on healthy wetlands and wise use. Over half of ‘Wetlands of International Importance’ are damaged by agriculture. Transformation of agriculture is urgently needed to reverse these trends.”

Enhanced integration and co-ordination are needed across the agriculture, urban development and wetland management sectors, major changes are needed to reduce water use and pollution and to stop wetland conversion.

Prepared on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of ‘The Convention on Wetlands,’ the Global Wetland Outlook 2021 draws on more than 30 major global and regional assessments and other recent scientific findings. The Convention is a global inter-governmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.

It pointed out that wetlands are particularly impacted by sea-level rise, coral bleaching and changing hydrology, with Arctic and montane wetlands especially at risk. “Changing weather increases risks of flooding and drought in many places. Wetlands need to be part of delivering climate solutions,” the Outlook said.

Adequate water provision is fundamental, and wetlands are critical for water security. Undisturbed peat lands and coastal blue carbon ecosystems (salt marshes, mangroves, seagrass beds, etc.) are powerful carbon sinks, but can be significant sources of greenhouse gases if degraded. “Therefore, Wetland actions need to be included in the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – steps that are proposed to be taken for restricting emissions to keep temperature rise to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius – as well as in national adaptation and disaster risk reduction plans,” it said.

Stating that people’s health and livelihoods depend on well-managed wetlands, it said, “The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way we think about health and the environment, with more recognition of the importance of nature for health, including mental wellbeing. Ecosystem degradation and careless wildlife trade both increase the risks of pandemics, with up to three quarters of new diseases being zoonotic in origin. Meanwhile, water-borne diseases alike infant diarrhoea’ are increased by poor wetland management and cause millions of deaths every year.”

The Outlook does have something to look forward to. “Deterioration of wetlands is widespread, but more wetlands are still reported as in ‘good’ rather than ‘bad’ ecological character,” it said, adding, “Improvement in wetland ecological character is linked to the extent of implementation of the Strategic Plan of the Convention.”

20211215-162409

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