Wetlands & Habitat Creation
Wetlands can be designated as coastal tidal wetlands and salt marshes or inland freshwater wetlands and ponds.
The Significance of Wetlands
Because wetlands are among the most biologically productive ecosystems in the world, they are of extreme significance to scores of species, many of which are endangered.
Estuarine and marine fish and shellfish, and some mammals must have wetlands to survive as they are breeding grounds and/or provide a rich source of food via decomposing plant matter.
In addition to being unique ecosystems, wetlands also act as a filter for pollution and excess sediment. This is important because rainwater runoff can be laden with pesticides and other pollutants. By going through a wetland prior to reaching open water, this is filtered out and often, excess sediment naturally builds up in the wetland instead of in rivers or other water bodies.
Wetlands also aid in flood protection as they act as sponges that absorb rain and floodwater. Furthermore, wetlands are significant to the reduction of coastal erosion as they can act as a buffer between land and the sea- an important thing to have in areas prone to storm surges and hurricanes. Inland wetlands also prevent erosion because the roots of the wetland's vegetation hold soil in place.
Human Impacts and Conservation
Today, wetlands are incredibly sensitive ecosystems and because of human activities, they have been degraded considerably. Development along waterways and even draining of wetlands has caused increased pollution (to the extent that natural absorption cannot keep up), a decrease in available water and water quality. In addition, the introduction of nonnative species has changed the natural species composition and sometimes crowded out native species. Recently, many places have come to realize the importance of wetlands for their economic and biological benefits. As a result, efforts are now being made to protect existing wetlands, restore damaged ones, and even develop new, artificial wetlands in viable areas.
The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, called the Ramsar Convention, is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. The Ramsar Convention is the only global environmental treaty that deals with a particular ecosystem. The treaty was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971 and the Convention's member countries cover all geographic regions of the planet.
The Ramsar mission
The Convention's mission is "the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world".
The Convention uses a broad definition of the types of wetlands covered in its mission, including lakes and rivers, swamps and marshes, wet grasslands and peatlands, oases, estuaries, deltas and tidal flats, near-shore marine areas, mangroves and coral reefs, and human-made sites such as fish ponds, rice paddies, reservoirs, and salt pans.
The Wise Use concept
At the centre of the Ramsar philosophy is the “wise use” concept. The wise use of wetlands is defined as "the maintenance of their ecological character, achieved through the implementation of ecosystem approaches, within the context of sustainable development". "Wise use" therefore has at its heart the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands and their resources, for the benefit of humankind.
The Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992) requires EU Member States to create a network of protected wildlife areas, known as Natura 2000, across the European Union. This network consists of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs), established to protect wild birds under the Birds Directive (Council Directive 79/409/EEC of 2 April 1979). These sites are part of a range of measures aimed at conserving important or threatened habitats and species.
Special Areas of Conservation and European sites
New Natura 2000 sites – possible Special Areas of Conservation (pSACs)
Click for more information
Click the links below for a list of companies associated with the development of wetlands