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What Are Wetlands Conservation?

Context:

According to a new report, wetland conservation should feature as an independent topic of discussion in the negotiations at the upcoming biodiversity and climate change conferences for effective carbon sequestration.

  • Carbon sequestration is the long-term storage of carbon in plants, soils, geologic formations, and the ocean.

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Conservation of Environment, Conventions regarding conservation of ecology)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Five suggested targets by Wetlands International to be achieved by 2030
  2. What are wetlands?
  3. Importance of Wetlands
  4. Wetland disturbances
Five suggested targets by Wetlands International to be achieved by 2030

Experts from the Wetlands International, a global non-profit, in a new white paper suggested five global, science-based conservation efforts to protect and restore wetlands.

  1. The remaining, undrained peatland carbon stores should be kept intact and 10 million hectares of drained peatlands need should be restored.
  2. The Global mangrove cover of 20 %.
  3. The preservation of free-flowing rivers and floodplains, along with enhancement of restoring the floodplain ecosystem and its function in the area.
  4. The 10% increase of the West African river Volta in the tidal flats area.
  5. Identification of 50 % of the 7,000 critically important sites along the flyways to be brought under favourable management.

What are wetlands?

  • A wetland is a distinct ecosystem that is flooded by water, either permanently or seasonally, where oxygen-free processes prevail.
  • The primary factor that distinguishes wetlands from other land forms or water bodies is the characteristic vegetation of aquatic plants, adapted to the unique hydric soil.
  • The main wetland types are swamp, marsh, bog, and fen; sub-types include mangrove forest, carr, pocosin, floodplains, mire, vernal pool, sink, and many others.
  • The largest wetlands include the Amazon River basin, the West Siberian Plain, the Pantanal in South America, and the Sundarbans in the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta.

Importance of Wetlands

Wetlands play a number of functions such as:

  • Water storage (flood control)
  • Groundwater replenishment
  • Shoreline stabilisation and storm protection
  • Water purification
  • Reservoirs of biodiversity
  • Pollination
  • Wetland products
  • Cultural values
  • Recreation and tourism
  • Climate change mitigation and adaptation

Wetlands are also considered the most biologically diverse of all ecosystems, serving as home to a wide range of plant and animal life.

Wetland disturbances

Wetlands, the functions and services they provide as well as their flora and fauna, can be affected by several types of disturbances – the predominant ones include the following:

  • Enrichment/eutrophication
  • Organic loading and reduced dissolved oxygen
  • Contaminant toxicity
  • Acidification
  • Salinization
  • Sedimentation
  • Altered solar input (turbidity/shade)
  • Vegetation removal
  • Thermal alteration
  • Dehydration/aridification
  • Inundation/flooding
  • Habitat fragmentation
  • Other human presence

Human Activities that affect Wetlands:

  • Drainage
  • Development
  • Over-grazing
  • Mining
  • Unsustainable water use

Wetlands have historically been the victim of large draining efforts for real estate development, or flooding for use as recreational lakes or hydropower generation.

-Source: Down to Earth


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