Every year, on the 2nd of February, we celebrate World Wetlands Day (WWD) to commemorate the signing of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971.
“Wetlands and climate change”, the theme for WWD 2019, aims to highlight the important role played by wetlands, as natural solutions, in adapting to, and mitigating the impact of climate change.
Nowadays, the economy, human health and natural ecosystems are facing one of the most pressing problems: climate change. Wetland ecosystems are severely affected by such impacts of climate change such as sea level rise, coral bleaching, hydrological effects, changes in water temperature, and alterations in water availability and quality.
Impacts of climate change on Mediterranean wetlands
Wetlands are particularly severely affected by socio-economic pressures and climate change, which result in the degradation of biodiversity and ecosystem services, and a concomitant negative impact on Mediterranean human communities, especially those on the coast. Furthermore, the impacts of climate change are particularly significant in the Mediterranean region and will decrease ecosystem resilience in the region (Mediterranean Wetlands Outlook 2).
According to the report “Mediterranean Wetlands Outlook 2: Solutions for sustainable Mediterranean Wetlands”, published by the Mediterranean Wetlands Observatory (MWO), functioning under the umbrella of Tour du Valat and MedWet:
- 95% of the wetland sites hosting more than 50,000 waterbirds are coastal and threatened with submersion following sea level rise.
- The Iberian Peninsula, the Maghreb, the Balkans and the Near East are the regions that are likely to lose the largest number of wetland species as a result of climate change.
The role of wetlands in coping with climate change
Mediterranean wetlands, particularly coastal wetlands, are important for helping to mitigate climate change because they help to manage extreme weather events through the multiple services they provide. Important wetland functions include water storage, groundwater recharge, storm protection, flood mitigation, shoreline stabilization, erosion control, and retention of carbon, nutrients, sediments and pollutants (Dugan 1990).
Wetlands, and especially peatlands, are significant carbon stores. According to the Ramsar Convention, it has been estimated that peatlands contain at least 550 Gt of carbon, which is almost double the amount stored in the world’s forests.
Although they cover only 3% of the world’s land area, they contain 30% of its soil carbon (Parish et al, 2008; FAO, 2012b).
Wetlands such as mangroves, saltmarshes and coral reefs play crucial roles in controlling flood peaks and spreading the water table. Thanks to their vegetation, such as trees and root mats, wetlands act as permeable barriers that slow waves, reduce flooding, and offer natural protection for coastlines against destructive weather events.
During heavy rains, wetlands, including floodplains, peatlands, marshes and lagoons act as natural sponges. They absorb rainfall, store water in the soil or retain it on the surface. This storage capacity lowers flood heights and reduces erosion.
Coastal wetlands are nature-based defences that can provide critical protection against hurricane storm surges.
Mangroves, saltmarshes and coral reefs all reduce the speed and height of storm surges. Their roots bind the shoreline, resist erosion by wind and waves, and increase resilience against climate change (the Ramsar Convention).
Wetlands are important source of water everywhere, including in places where the resource is scarce.
Local populations and animal and plant species benefit from wetlands as providers of water. Wetlands allow water to reach the underground water table, making the resource available in dry periods. Thus, wetlands are key for groundwater recharge and allow ecosystems to cope with drought. By the same process, by releasing underground water, wetlands help to maintain the flow of rivers when precipitations diminish.
These enormously valuable wetland functions offer solid evidence that investing in natural solutions near coasts is a cost-effective way to enhance the resilience to climate change of vulnerable coastal areas and communities.
Key messages for decision makers
The Mediterranean Wetlands Outlook 2 (MWO2) addressed some keys messages related to climate change for decision makers.
Human well-being is being compromised through the loss of the multiple benefits provided by wetlands, including by:
- Increasing the risk of flooding of homes and infrastructure;
- Increasing the risk of exposure to water shortages and drought; and
- Reducing mitigations of the impacts of the climate change, which is expected to make this situation worse for future generations.
In the light of these threats, positive responses for wetlands can make a difference and benefit the well-being of future generations of people and wildlife. Responses include:
- Encouraging increased public awareness of the importance of wetlands, as well as stakeholder participation in their management, for maintaining human well-being;
- Strengthening national legal and policy arrangements to conserve all wetlands; and
- Developing and implementing adaptation strategies for coastal and inland wetlands to minimize the impacts of climate change.
Coastal and unprotected wetlands are expected to be most severely impacted by climate change, but conserving and restoring wetlands is a very effective way to mitigate climate change impacts for people and biodiversity.
Communication materials for WWD 2019
Today, we are pleased to announce that all materials, comprising guide, posters, handouts, factsheets, presentations, infographic and logos, that have been provided by the Ramsar Secretariat are, now available to download.
Main poster for getting involved in World Wetlands Day 2019.
Download the pdf file here.
An InDesign file is available to create your own poster event, here.
Create your own poster event using the InDesign file.
Two handouts are available:
- Wetlands: The key to coping with climate change.
- We are not powerless against climate change: Wetlands help us prepare for, cope with and bounce back from the impacts of climate change.
Download the PDF file here.
We are not powerless against climate change: Wetlands help us cope
Download the PDF file here.
Create your own infographic using the InDesign file
Through the key message “Life Begins In Wetlands”, the campaign focuses on the critical role played by coastal wetlands in ensuring the livelihoods of millions of people living in these areas, and also in protecting their homes by reducing disaster risks such as flooding and storms. Visit the website of the campaign : http://offyourmap.org/
The report, published by the Mediterranean Wetlands Observatory (MWO), presents the socio-economic situation, trends of Mediterranean wetlands, their benefits and their values, and includes key messages for decision makers.
Download the report here.
MedWet has produced a cartoon in 2015 presenting a useful tool to highlight the services provided by wetlands, especially in the Mediterranean region.
Please visit the official website of WWD 2019: http://www.worldwetlandsday.org/
Register your event on the global map of events.
Participate in the Photo Contest.