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Wetlands and habitat destruction

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Wetlands

Wetlands cover more than 6% of the earth’s surface. They exist of water or ice and earth. Wetlands can be found all over the world, from the polar regions to the tropics. In many regions of the world, wetlands are deteriorating rapidly. As they are the most highly threatened ecosystems of our planet, we need to take action to preserve wetlands.
WetlandsPeople around the world are relying on wetlands for their spiritual, cultural as well as economic well-being; That is why we need to safeguard the existence of wetlands worldwide.

There are several ways to categorise wetlands. A wetland may be found in:

  • Coasts: areas between land and open sea that are not influenced by rivers (e.g. shorelines, beaches, mangroves and coral reefs)
  • Estuaries: where rivers meet the sea and water changes from fresh to salt as it meets the sea (e.g. deltas, mudflats and salt marches)
  • Floodplains: areas next to the permanent course of a river that extends to the edge of the valley (e.g. ox-bow lakes and river-islands)
  • Marshes/swamps: areas where water is more or less permanently at the surface and/or causing saturation of the soil (e.g. papyrus swamp, fen, peatlands)
  • Shallow lakes: areas of permanent or semi-permanent water with little flow (e.g. ponds, salt lakes, volcanic crater lakes).

Importance of wetlands

Wetlands are important because of the following reasons:

Animal species

Biological productivity

Water Quality and Hydrology

Water storage

Flood protection

Shoreline Erosion

Economics

To give an example: 40% of the world population depends on the glaciers of the Himalaya for their water. If the glaciers melt, the constant flow of water is replaced by floods in the wet season and droughts in the dry.

Although large-scale benefits of functions can be valued, determining the value of individual wetlands is difficult because they differ widely and do not all perform the same functions or perform functions equally well. Decision makers must understand that impacts on wetland functions can eliminate or diminish the values of wetlands.

Read more about:

More than one third of the US threatened species live in wetlands.
Wetlands are some of the most biologically productive natural ecosystems in the world.
Wetlands have important filtering capabilities.
Water storage is one of the important abilities of wetlands.
Wetlands function as natural sponges that trap and slowly release water.
The ability of wetlands to control erosion is very valuable.
We use a wealth of natural products from wetlands and use them for recreation.
Global warming and lack of knowledge are reasons why wetlands are threatened ecosystems.

Problems

The industrial progress as well as an increase in population are two key factors in the decline of wetlands.

Wetlands are the most threatened ecosystems and the pressure on them, is likely to intensify over the coming decades due to rapidly increasing water consumption, over-exploitation of natural resources and climate change.

Problems also result in narrow, sectoral approaches taken to economic development, perverse economic subsidies that don't consider the link between ecosystem services and human livelihoods, or poorly formulated responses to poverty.
Unsustainable exploitation and the destruction of wetlands, is often the result of poor uni-sectoral planning, and a lack of recognition of the ecological, hydrological and economic functions and values associated with intact wetlands.

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News about wetlands

Wetlands

Rebuilding Nature in Wake of Katrina - Several projects have been undertaken to restore wetlands in Louisiana to provide flood protection and wildlife habitat.
Inside a Floating, Eco-Conscious Art Project - Mary Mattingly’s “WetLand” is part houseboat, part sculpture, part DIY sustainability demonstration site.