World Environment Day: A call to protect our Planet and ecosystems

World Environment Day, celebrated annually on June 5th, unites millions of people from around the globe in the shared mission to protect and restore our nature. This important day, established by the United Nations, raises awareness and drives action on pressing environmental issues.

However, our planet’s ecosystems, from wetlands and drylands to farmlands and forests, are crucial for humanity’s survival, yet they face significant threats. Each year, approximately 12 million hectares of land are lost to degradation, severely impacting food and water supplies worldwide. This degradation disrupts the balance of natural habitats, making it harder for ecosystems to recover and continue providing essential services.

In response to these pressing issues, the theme for this year’s World Environment Day is centered on land restoration, desertification, and drought resilience. Under the slogan “Our land. Our future. We are #GenerationRestoration“, the campaign emphasizes the urgent need to restore degraded lands and build resilience against droughts, ensuring a sustainable future for all.



The vital role of wetlands

Moreover, wetlands, which are among the most threatened ecosystems, play a critical role in our environment. Wetlands, including lakes, rivers, marshes and peatlands, are vital in the fight against climate change as they store between 20-30% of global carbon despite covering only 5-8% of the Earth’s land surface. They help combat droughts by absorbing excess water during wet periods and slowly releasing it back into the environment during dry spells, thereby stabilizing water supplies. Additionally, wetlands support livelihoods by providing food, jobs, and water, and they are biodiversity hotspots, hosting a rich variety of plant and animal species.


A wetland. © A.Satta


Wetland losses and the causes of their degradation

Despite their critical importance, wetlands have suffered significant losses. Since 1700, over 85% of the world’s wetlands have been lost, with the Mediterranean region losing 50% of its natural wetlands since 1970.

Wetlands have primarily been lost due to human activities like drainage and infilling for agriculture and urban development. Furthermore, these ecosystems suffer significant degradation from invasive species, altered water flows, pollution and the over-extraction of natural resources, etc. Climate change intensifies these problems by leading to more frequent and severe droughts and higher temperatures, which increase evapotranspiration.

Consequences of wetland degradation

The degradation and loss of wetlands severely affect both people and nature. Wetlands provide essential services like water purification, flood control, and carbon storage. When degraded, wetlands lose their ability to store water efficiently, exacerbating water crises during droughts. Additionally, degraded wetlands release stored carbon, transitioning from carbon sinks to sources and contributing to global warming. This loss of ecosystem services threatens the livelihoods of millions of people who rely on wetlands for food, water, and economic activities.

Conservation measures and strategies

It is crucial to implement effective conservation measures through various strategic plans to halt and reverse the loss of wetlands. Integrating wetland conservation into National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plans (NBSAPs), as well as disaster risk reduction plans, can help address both the direct and indirect drivers of wetland loss. For example, establishing protected areas, restoring degraded wetlands, regulating water extraction, and controlling pollution are all vital measures. Additionally, enhancing community involvement and promoting sustainable agricultural and urban development practices can further protect and preserve these essential ecosystems.

Let us take advantage of this World Environment Day to advocate for concrete measures to protect our planet’s precious wetlands and restore our ecosystems’ health. By uniting our efforts, we can ensure a sustainable future for generations to come.


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