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article imageProtecting wetlands is of pressing importance Special

By Tim Sandle     Feb 25, 2015 in Environment
Disturbing data suggests that almost two-thirds of the world’s wetlands have been lost over the past 100 years. This has resulted in a loss of freshwater animals and plants.
The newly issued data indicates that since the year 1900, some 64 percent of the wetlands throughout the world have disappeared. The report also estimates that 76 percent of the freshwater plants and animals commonly found in these areas have been lost. From these data it seems as if wetlands have been hit harder than any other ecosystem. Digital Journal spoke to the leading campaign body to find out why wetlands are important and what is being done to protect them.
A wetland is a land area that is saturated with water, either permanently or seasonally, such that it takes on the characteristics of a distinct ecosystem. Wetlands are of ecological importance. They provide water supplies to many part of the world and they are environmental niches for thousands of plants and animals that require freshwater habitats. In addition, crops like rice require wetland environments in order to grow (like the characteristic paddy field.)
It may also be that wetlands act as a type of filter in terms of absorbing pollutants and chemicals, as well as lowering the risk of river flooding. Add to this the employment that goes with using and maintaining wetlands (not least, the growing of rice) and importance of these inland areas is apparent.
Based on these findings, one environmental organization – the Ramsar Convention – is stepping up its campaign and is calling for greater protection of wetlands. One of the key events to promote this cause was World Wetlands Day, which had the theme this year of “Wetlands for our future.”
The Ramsar Convention is one of the world’s oldest environmental conventions. It was signed in 1971 in Ramsar, Iran. The convention was originally titled “Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as Waterfowl Habitat.” To date, 168 countries are signatories. The aim is to protect and restore wetlands for global water security.
Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention, Dr. Christopher Briggs told Digital Journal that: “We have a fantastic opportunity with the restoration of wetlands to build a groundswell of opinion and involve thousands of enthusiastic, concerned individuals who want to make a difference.”
Discussing issues of economic importance, Dr. Briggs added: “Wetlands provide services worth an estimated $15 trillion worldwide — including food, water, and climate regulation—demonstrating just how vital they are to humans and the environment alike and highlighting the need to conserve them.”
Another means of raising awareness is through photographs, and the Ramsar Convention has launched a photography completion for young people. The aim is for interesting photographs of wetlands to be taken and hosted on a website. A prize will be awarded in March for the best photograph.
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