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World Wetlands Day: Wetlands & Human Wellbeing

World Wetlands Day is celebrated each year on 2 February to raise awareness about wetlands. This year’s campaign – Wetlands and Human Wellbeing – spotlights how interconnected wetlands and human life are, with people drawing sustenance, inspiration and resilience from these productive ecosystems. Importantly, it underscores how all aspects of human wellbeing are tied to the health of the world’s wetlands. 

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Wetlands are climate superheroes

Wetland flora are vital to both adaptation and mitigation. Mangrove forests and seagrass meadows protect shorelines from storm surges and sea level rise. Mangroves are also superheroes at capturing and storing carbon. In fact, it is estimated that they store four times more carbon than other tropical forests. Peatlands cover only about 3% of our planet’s land but store approximately twice the amount of carbon than all the world’s forests combined.

Conversely, the loss and degradation of wetlands exacerbates the climate crisis by releasing greenhouse gases and leaving ecosystems, and the people dependent on them, more vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Wetlands ensure water security

Almost all of the world’s freshwater is drawn directly from wetlands. Wetlands play a crucial role in water purification, storage, and flood control. Peatlands act like sponges – absorbing excess water in times of heavy rainfall, and releasing it slowly in times of drought. Seagrass meadows and mangrove roots remove impurities and saline from seawater. Wetlands are so central to the water cycle, that a world without wetlands would be a world without freshwater. And unfortunately, the climate crisis is also a water crisis.

Wetlands provide space for wellness

Rivers, lakes, coastal wetlands, and urban wetlands provide space for quiet reflection. They are meditative places and time spent in wetlands boosts mental health. Recreational activities including walking, swimming, kayaking promote physical wellbeing. For thousands of years, wetland plants and animals have also provided the basis for our medicines.

Yet, wetlands are the Earth’s most threatened ecosystem and we’re losing them three times faster than forests. Human activities like drainage, conversion, and damming have fragmented and damaged wetlands the world over. Degraded wetlands have a compounding adverse impact on our welfare, affecting our access to clean water, disrupting our livelihoods, impacting the delicate balance of ecosystems that are essential to us.  

The good news is that the solution is in our hands. Investing in the sustainable use of wetlands means investing in the future of humanity. Wetland restoration is essential to overcoming the climate-biodiversity crisis and to delivering the Sustainable Development Goals as well as the Global Biodiversity Framework.

The importance of wetlands