The Secretariat of the Convention on Wetlands, published the Global Wetland Outlook: Special Edition 2021 report to celebrate the Convention’s 50th anniversary. The report aims to highlight the importance of halting wetland loss – 35% of natural wetlands have been lost since 1970; and to stop the continuing deterioration of the remaining wetlands.
The ecosystem services provided by wetlands are enormous and include food security, biodiversity, water quality and quantity, climate change mitigation yet they are being lost at 3 times the rate of deforestation. Drainage, pollution, invasive species and unsustainable use are all having an impact. One quarter of wetland dependent species are at risk of extinction and these losses are continuing owing to land use change.
Climate change will add additional stress as wetlands are particularly impacted by sea level rise, coral bleaching and changing hydrology with montane and arctic wetlands particularly vulnerable. Changing weather will increase the risk of floods and droughts. The report recommends that the protection of peatland and coastal blue carbon ecosystems (salt marshes, mangroves and seagrass beds are essential as they are powerful carbon sinks but if degraded they are sources of greenhouse gases. Their protection must be included in national adaptation and disaster risk reduction plans.
More sustainable food production is recommended as agriculture is a key driver of wetland degradation. There is a need to reduce water use and water pollution and urban planning needs to incorporate wetlands as they deliver better health and well-being outcomes for city residents.
Broader stakeholder engagement would facilitate more diversified governance and management and greater local ownership. Nature-based solutions need to be incorporated into the solutions for meeting environmental objectives.
The Convention on Wetlands was adopted half a century ago, and its mission is now more urgent than ever. The Convention has a key role as a global forum for negotiation and consensus building on the management of wetlands. Achieving sustainable wetland management is a challenge in every country.
Hydromorphology is the second greatest pressure on Ireland’s waterbodies, being the significant pressure in 442 waterbodies. Hydrological impacts cause damage to natural processes and to the structures and functions of wetland habitats and species e.g. barriers that impede fish migration; land and channel drainage that alters or impedes flow conditions and land use such peat extraction, urban development, agriculture and forestry.
The draft River Basin Management Plan proposes to address these issues by developing a new Controlled Activities for the Protections of Waters regime, it proposes the establishment of a long term restoration programme to mitigate the negative impacts of past construction and the removal and modification of barriers to fish passage. There is also an agricultural measure to prevent instream habitat damage arising from land drainage and river channel drainage.
The Global Wetland Outlook Report is available below:
Further information on the draft River Basin Management Plan
Check out the events across Ireland to mark World Wetlands Day