Ghar el Melh, Tunisia. © Tarek Khatib

Why you should care about wetlands

Wetlands, in all their forms, have belonged to our landscapessince time immemorial. And perhaps specifically because they have been an inherent part of our world for so long, it can be easy to forget just how important they are.

By Justine Guiny, International Policy officer, BirdLife Europe and Central Asia

Today, wetlands are in danger. It’s time for a reminder on why wetlands matter.
What is a wetland?
The recipe is simple: take an area of landthat is permanently or seasonally flooded with water, and there you goit’s a wetland. Wetlands exist in a variety ofshapes and sizes: ponds, marshes, low-lying frequently flooded areas, deltas or even coastal areas with shallow watersare all ecosystems that qualify as wetlands. Wetlands are wonderful, and incredibly important. Important for what, you ask?

For the climate

Wetlands are essential to fight the climate crisis. Theysequestrate large quantities of carbon from the atmosphere,help us face droughts by storing water in the ground, provide defences against floods and sea-level rise; and of top of all that, they also mitigate storms surges.

For biodiversity

Wetlands are thriving with life – they are home to millions ofanimals and plants, some of them endangered, relying on the very existence and health of wetlands to survive. From plants to animals such as deer, beavers, turtles, fish, dragonflies or even iconic birds like flamingos; so many species depend on wetlands as a life supporting system. It’s where they eat, sleep, and reproduce. It’s their home.

For humanity

Not only do wetlands protect us from the climate crisis; they also purify the water we drink, they support a large array of edible plants, and ensure the production of key resources such as rice. Wetlands are crucial in delivering food, water, and money to millions upon millions of people.

You get it: we need wetlands to survive.

And yet, destructive activities such as intensive agriculture,ill-conceived infrastructure developments, and flawedforestation are making wetlands disappear. The NGO Wetlands International reports that “since 1900, more than 64% of wetlands have been lost through drainage and conversion”. Sixty-four percent. In the past century, we lost more than half of the world’s wetlands.

In the Mediterranean, the situation is particularly alarming. The region is warming 20% faster than the rest of the world.Coastal wetlands support the lives and livelihoods of at least half the people in the region. And 48% of wetlands in the Mediterranean basin have disappeared since 1970.

Help save our wetlands

The European Commission is now in the process of drafting a law on nature restoration, which could have the potential to reverse the trend for wetlands and other vital carbon-rich ecosystems, by making Member States restore them. As we are now entering the ‘UN Decade for Ecosystem restoration’, it is high time for the EU to lead by example and adopt a law that focuses on setting aside large areas of land, river, and sea for nature in order to quickly bring about the change we need.

The European Commission is consulting the public until 5thApril about how restoration should look like.

Sign this petition to get your voice heard, and wetlands will have your back!