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A focus on wetlands essential to tackle land degradation

Published on:
  • Climate and disaster risks
  • Community resilience
  • Natural infrastructure solutions
  • Rivers and lakes
  • Sustainable land use

Today the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) has launched the Global Land Outlook, a first of its kind report on land resources and the impacts of changing land uses.

The report looks at the big picture, including the history of land use and the drivers of land degradation, before zooming in on some of the most pressing issues impacting land use and the actions needed to achieve a land degradation-neutral world.

Wetlands International has contributed to the shaping and focus of this report through the steering committee, emphasizing the importance of addressing land-water interactions. This has resulted in a significant focus on water and wetlands.

The report acknowledges the current rapid rate of wetland loss and the impact this trend is having on biodiversity, carbon emissions, soil subsidence, and water insecurity.

Drainage is highlighted as a key driver of land degradation, particularly in relation to peatlands, the most important water and carbon stores on the planet. Reversal of peatland drainage is prioritized. We made contributions to the report based on our scientific evidence and experience, helping to make the case for investing in ecological restoration of wetlands to reverse land degradation.

The need to focus attention on water resource management and to reverse wetland loss is something we address in our recently published report Water Shocks: Wetlands and Human Migration in the Sahel. The rivers, lakes, floodplains and deltas of the Sahel are highly productive and biologically diverse ecosystems, fed by seasonal floods. Tens of millions of people depend on them for their livelihoods and fishing, farming and herding take place in the Sahel at different points in the flood cycle.

But these wetlands are degrading, often due to development projects. As a result these wetlands that were once a refuge are driving migration and conflict.

Both Water Shocks and the Global Land Outlook call on governments and investors to reverse land degradation. An important first step in this process is greater recognition of wetlands as vital natural assets.

Find out more about our work on land degradation:

  • Restoring peatlands in Russia: To avoid large amounts of carbon dioxide emissions and major peat fires in Russia, a large-scale ecological restoration pilot project covering over 40.000 ha of drained abandoned peatlands was initiated as part of a Russian-German bilateral co-operation and is now being implemented in several provinces in the European part of Russia. Watch a short video about the rewetting of peatlands in Russia and our work on this issue.
  • Living with floods in the Mahanadi delta: During the 1960s there were only three flood events on the Mahanadi delta; in the first decade of the new century there were seven. But the problem is not just climate change; it is at least as much due to changing land use. Read journalist Fred Pearce’s blog on our work in this region.
  • Restoring Brunei’s rich biodiversity: Brunei has a long history of oil and gas production. To have access to sufficient and good quality water, pipelines were constructed which cut through the largest peat dome of Brunei, the Badas Peat Dome. The drainage of this peat area has degraded areas in the west of Brunei. Find out more about our work to reduce the impact of oil and gas on Brunei’s biodiversity and ecosystem services.