This World Water Week, we want to give these fantastic ecosystems the attention they deserve. By the year 2000, >85% of the wetlands present in 1700 had been lost. In percentage terms, wetland loss is currently occurring three times faster than forest loss. Thankfully, societal awareness of the value of forests seems to have grown—but wetlands have been left behind. If everybody understood just how important wetlands are, we would all be shouting from the rooftops to protect them. That's why we've listed just a few of the reasons why we love wetlands.
1. 40% of all species rely on freshwater wetlands, despite covering less than 1% of the world’s surface.
These excellent habitats function as hotspots for biodiversity. They have the ability to support a huge number of different species, from birds and amphibians to mammals, fish and reptiles. Many species rely on wetlands for at least one of their life stages, so when we lose wetlands, we stand to lose these important species, too.
2. Coastal wetlands sustain the highest rates of carbon sequestration per unit area of all natural systemsIn simpler terms, this means that they store carbon from the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide contributes to global warming, so wetlands can actively help in the fight against climate change. In the midst of a climate crisis, we should be protecting wetlands more strongly than ever!
3. Wetlands are a fundamental component of the “nexus” between water, food and energyWetlands can clean our drinking water, provide water for agriculture, and cool water for use in the energy sector. Their continued existence is therefore of vital importance to our society.
4. They have huge economic valueOne study estimated the total economic value of 190 inland wetlands (exclusive of lakes and rivers) at almost £20,000 per hectare. Even if you can't see the ecological value of wetlands, their value to our economy is clear.
5. They can protect our homes and businesses from floodingBy storing water during periods of high rainfall, these habitats reduce the amount of water which accumulates on the surface. Water can be stored in the soil and pools, before being slowly released over time. By restoring and creating new wetlands, we can manage flood risk in at-risk areas
6. Wetland plants and animals have been used for thousands of years in medicineSalix alba, commonly found in these precious ecosystems, is the source of aspirin's precursor. 70-80% of people worldwide rely largely on traditional, herbal medicine to meet their healthcare needs - and many of these plants thrive in these habitats.
7. They provide places to relax and unwindWhether you're into photography, walking or running, wetlands are the perfect place to do it. They're great for birdwatchers, bug enthusiasts and mammal lovers alike. The tranquillity of a wetland is hard to rival!
8. They can filter out pollutants
These fantastic habitats provide a non-invasive solution for improving water quality. Water which drains through the wetland is gradually filtered by plants and captured in the soil. You can find out more about this by reading about one of Norfolk Rivers Trust's projects.This page is sponsored by WaterCo-Governance (WaterCoG) project under the Interreg North Sea Region VB programme, funded by the European Regional Development Fund.