Throughout history wetlands have been integral to human survival and development. How? Simple: Wetlands are life – food, water, fibre. We depend on them – people, business and nature. Yet they are highly threatened. Globally the world has lost more than 54% of its wetlands and this loss has accelerated by four times in the last 70 years. People and businesses impact wetlands, creating problems of water scarcity, excessive floods and pollution. So what does this mean for our future?
Imagine you are a fisherman (or woman)
You live along a coast where you earn your income fishing. Naturally, you and your family eat a lot of fish. More importantly, your daily catch is sold to the market, and that is how you survive. Along the coast where you fish everyday are trees which protect the coast from storm surges and large waves and are a nursery for fish, providing shelter from predators. When they mature, you catch them. Without these trees, more commonly known as mangroves, people and nature are left unprotected.
One day, the government approves an economic development plan to boost tourism along the coast. The mangroves are cut down and within a decade, your fish are gone and hotels line the coast. Since you can no longer fish, you get a job in tourism.
Over the years storms along the coast have increased and the seawall protecting the hotels has burst more than once, flooding waterfront properties. Waves, often metres high, flood the land. In time, panic increases and tourism declines.
Now the land is lost to the sea, and both fishing and tourism are no longer viable options.
Wetlands for our Future
This is not just a hypothetical example. Globally, half of all mangrove forests have been lost since the mid-twentieth century, with one-fifth since 1980. Unless this trend is reversed and mangrove coasts are protected and restored, for most coastal families, this will be their reality.
Mangroves, and other wetlands, provide a basis for local food security and livelihoods that can be of national and even regional economic significance. Restoring them brings back coastal protection and provides a sustainable base for fisheries and tourism.
This is why we care about wetlands and why we work towards safeguarding and restoring them for our future. This February 2nd, support our work by getting involved or with a donation. Happy World Wetlands Day and please, share the story!
Spalding et al. 2010
Davidson, Nick C. (2014). How much wetland has the world lost? Long-term and recent trends in global wetland area. Marine and Freshwater Research 65, 934–941.