Wetlands for our Future: Sustainable Livelihoods

Bonn, 1 February 2016 – “World Wetlands Day” celebrated around the world on 2 February marks the anniversary of the adoption of the Convention of Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat. A campaign and associate events have been organized every year since 1997 to raise public awareness of the importance and value of wetlands, almost two thirds of which have been lost since 1900.

The Convention – more commonly known as the Ramsar Convention after the Iranian town on the Caspian Sea where it was negotiated in 1971 – is the driving force behind the event. A key partner of CMS and fellow member of the Biodiversity Liaison Group, the Ramsar Convention has 169 contracting parties which have designated 2,208 wetland sites covering nearly 211 million hectares.

The theme for World Wetlands Day 2016 campaign, the twentieth such annual celebration, is Wetlands for Our Future: Sustainable Livelihoods. Far from being unproductive voids as some people wrongly imagine, wetlands are teeming with life and provide a wide range of environmental services – such as acting as a barrier to protect the coastline and as a natural sponge to prevent flooding as well as storing carbon thus helping to regulate climate change.    

Wetlands are also of enormous economic importance as more than a billion people worldwide make a living directly from them. Farming, fisheries and tourism are just three of the many industries that depend on wetlands. 

As the full name of the Ramsar Convention indicates, wetlands are also important habitats for waterfowl, many of which are migratory and therefore of interest to CMS and the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds. Coastal wetlands are also relevant for sharks, dugongs and marine turtles, species protected by CMS and the subject of some of the CMS Family instruments. 

Allowing people to make a living and ensuring that wetlands are protected are not irreconcilable objectives. It is entirely possible for wetlands to be used to provide livelihoods without compromising their ability to deliver services that keep the environment clean and intact and serve as habitats for millions of waterbirds.

For further information, see the dedicated World Wetlands Day website: www.worldwetlandsday.org

Last updated on 01 February 2016