Wetlands around the world are disappearing at an alarming rate. New research shows that these valuable ecosystems are vanishing at a rate three times that of forests. Unless significant changes are made, the disappearance of wetlands could cause severe damage around the globe.
The Global Wetland Outlook, which was completed by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, found that more than a third of the wetlands on Earth have disappeared over a 45-year period. The pace that wetlands are vanishing jumped significantly after the year 2000, and regions all over the planet were impacted equally. Unfortunately, there is a handful of reasons why wetlands are diminishing around the world. This includes climate change, urbanization, human population growth and variable consumption patterns, all of which have contributed to the way land is used.
There are several different types of wetlands found on Earth, including marshes, lakes, peatlands and rivers. Lagoons, coral reefs, mangroves and estuaries also fall into the wetland category. In total, wetlands take up more than 12.1 million square kilometers, an area larger than Greenland.
Wetlands are crucial, because they provide almost all of the world’s access to freshwater — something that is key to survival. Humans also use wetlands for hydropower and medicines. From an environmental perspective, wetlands help retain carbon and regulate global warming. They also serve as the ecosystems for 40 percent of living species on Earth, providing food, water, breeding spaces and raw materials for these animals to live. If the wetlands keep vanishing at the current rate, many species will go as well.
“The Global Wetland Outlook is a wake-up call — not only on the steep rate of loss of the world’s wetlands but also on the critical services they provide. Without them, the global agenda on sustainable development will not be achieved,” said Martha Rojas Urrego, Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. “We need urgent collective action to reverse trends on wetland loss and degradation and secure both the future of wetlands and our own survival at the same time.”
With wetlands in danger of disappearing, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands has pledged to make saving these regions a top priority. The parties involved with the group have targeted 2,300 sites for protection and hope to expand that to include more wetlands around the globe.
Image via Jeanethe Falvey / EPA