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World Wetlands Day - 2 February 2015

Latest research shows that 64% of wetlands worldwide have been lost since 1900, and that 76% of populations of freshwater plants and animals have disappeared in the last 40 years alone (according to the WWF's Living Planet report), which is worse than any other ecosystem. To combat the downward global trends in loss and degradation of wetlands, Ramsar works with governments and conservation organisations as well as bringing in private sector and scientific expertise.

"Wetlands for our future" - this year's theme for World Wetlands Day - seeks to highlight the varieties of ways in which wetlands provide for us all, and the many ways that we can all contribute to their conservation and restoration.

Too few people realize the numerous services and benefits wetlands provide and their importance for humans and the planet. Most importantly, wetlands are the source of our daily water.

At an event on the occasion of the Day, Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention, Dr. Christopher Briggs, said: "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. We can achieve great things if we work together. I love to spend time in any wetland and so do millions of others, and we have a duty to keep our rivers, lakes, sandy beaches and blue seas in the state that we want our grandchildren to enjoy."

"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. At the same time, the economic cost of the destruction of carbon-rich mangroves, which are being cleared 3 - 5 times faster than terrestrial forests, is at $42 billion in economic damages annually." said Achim Steiner, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and UN Environment Programme Executive Director.

"The Ramsar Convention has further helped bring a shift in thinking, from the perception that wetlands are unproductive and valueless to an understanding that wetlands supply multiple values to society. There are now 2,186 designated Ramsar sites covering over two million hectares across the globe, but further challenges lie ahead as development continues to encroach on these crucial ecosystems," he added. "World Wetlands Day shines greater light on the challenges still faced by wetlands - which have a key role to play in the post-2015 sustainable development agenda - and the communities who depend on them."

CAMPAIGN: This year, for World Wetlands Day, Ramsar is inviting people to make a pledge for wetlands, committing to making small changes that can help to slow the destruction and reverse the downwards trend. By pledging to take shorter showers, or use reusable shopping bags, for example, everyone can make a difference. Even better, organise a clean-up of a local wetland.

Visit our website www.worldwetlandsday.org or via the hashtag #WetlandsForOurFuture to make your contribution to the campaign.

Message of the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Braulio Ferreira De Souza Dias on the occasion of the WORLD WETLANDS DAY

“Wetlands for Our Future”

Wetlands are among our most valuable ecosystems. The values of benefits provided by wetlands, per unit

area, have been consistently shown to be orders of magnitude higher than for other ecosystems, with the

major benefit delivered through improved water security. They provide enormous benefits to society

including: freshwater and purifying and filtering harmful wastes from water; a source of foods, including

fish and rice which account for about 20% of the world’s nutritional supply; act as buffers for extreme

events and help reduce risks from flooding and drought; help combat climate change through providing

protection from extreme weather events, with peatlands alone storing more than twice as much carbon as

all the world’s forests; as a source of livelihoods for countless numbers of people; as well as supporting a

vast array of biodiversity. Despite these benefits, wetlands continue to be lost at an alarming rate with

estimates that 64% have disappeared since 1900 and 87% lost since 1700.

Throughout 2015 the global community will continue to discuss its aspirations for sustainable

development culminating in the adoption of a new post-2015 development agenda and the Sustainable

Development Goals. These discussions are rightfully characterised by attention to various prominent

themes which include food and nutrition security, water security, disaster risk reduction, sustainable

cities, combating climate change and its impacts, conserving and restoring ecosystems and biodiversity,

and eradicating poverty. Notably, the future of wetlands will be a key determinant of whether our

aspirations for a sustainable future will be met. This year’s theme for World Wetlands Day, “Wetlands

for our Future”, is therefore a timely reminder that while paying attention to our future, and that of our

children, we must also recognise the critical action that needs to be taken in order to ensure it. In this

regard, the conservation and restoration of wetlands must be a high priority.

Wetlands have always been implicitly recognised, as a cross-cutting ecosystem type, in the deliberations

of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and there is a long

history of their importance being explicitly recognised in decisions. Most recently, the twelfth meeting of

the Conference of the Parties (COP 12), held October 2014 in the Republic of Korea, emphasised the

critical importance of coastal wetlands for biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services, in particular

for migratory bird species, sustainable livelihoods, climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction.

The COP invited Parties to give due attention to the conservation and restoration of coastal wetlands, and

welcomed the work of the Ramsar Convention and initiatives that support the conservation and

restoration of coastal wetlands, including options to build a “Caring for Coasts” initiative, as part of a

global movement to restore coastal wetlands. Important linkages between wetlands and human health

were also recognised. These illustrate the long-standing recognition of wetlands as critical to our future.

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands is the lead implementation partner for wetlands for the Convention

on Biological Diversity and for actions to support wetlands in the context of the Strategic Plan for

Biodiversity 2011 – 2020 and the achievement of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. I am pleased to

acknowledge the continuing efforts of the Ramsar Convention in these regards, and recognise that the

working relationship between the two conventions, and their Secretariats, continues to flourish.

On this important day I ask us all to reflect on how our society has been affected through the loss and

degradation of wetlands, recognise what wetlands do for us now, consider the future challenges we face 

and do all we can to ensure that wetlands play a central role in shaping our sustainable future.

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Note 

The Ramsar Convention, the world's oldest environmental convention signed in 1971 in Ramsar, Iran, brings together 168 countries with a shared mission to ensure the wise use of wetlands, and has a proven track record in working with individual countries, private sector companies and non-governmental organisations to protect and restore wetlands for global water security.

World Wetlands Day is celebrated every year on the 2nd February, the anniversary of the Ramsar Convention. Each year since 1997 the Ramsar Secretariat has provided materials to help raise public awareness about the importance and value of wetlands. Thanks to financial support from the Danone Fund for Water, these materials are available in three languages, English, French and Spanish.

More information

www.worldwetlandsday.org 

www.unep.org/newscentre/Default.aspx?DocumentID=2818&ArticleID=11129&l=en

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