Wetlands convention celebrates 50th anniversary, but wetlands are still in decline

ecological wetlands

On 2 February, the Convention on Wetlands, also known as the Ramsar Convention, celebrated its 50th anniversary. But there is still an alarming decline in wetlands, and a new article in Nature Ecology & Evolution examines the mixed legacy of the convention. In the piece, Dr Peter Bridgewater from the University of Canberra and Dr Rakhyun E Kim from the Copernicus Institute for Sustainable Development at Utrecht University, argue that the convention will need to embrace new ecological thinking and conservation approaches for it to survive and stay relevant in the Anthropocene.

“Over the 50 year lifetime of the convention, at least 35 percent of wetlands globally have been lost,” said the authors. The convention’s achievements include establishing better awareness of wetlands globally, an extensive network of Sites of International Importance, and near universal membership of the world’s nations contrast.

Insufficient long-term impact
However, in its current form, the authors seem to find it doubtful that the Convention will have sufficient impact on wetlands in the long term. “One of its major flaws is the Ramsar’s site-based approach,” Bridgewater and Kim argue. The Ramsar Convention identifies suitable wetlands for a List of Wetlands of International Importance. Once on the list, the Convention mandates countries to ensure the sites maintain their ‘ecological character’. However, the authors argue that once an area is placed on the list, there is little change in its management and conservation to be observed.

Bridgewater and Kim therefore call for action by the convention. In its next fifty years, the convention can thrive if it links better with other global processes, reduces its focus on sites while ensuring better management of those already established, and develops a stronger focus on ‘wetscape’ approaches for wetlands to help mitigate against global change, especially in ‘blue carbon’ environments, uniquely covered by the convention.

Publication details
Bridgewater P., Kim R.E., 2021. The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands at 50, Nature Ecology & Evolution.

The post Wetlands convention celebrates 50th anniversary, but wetlands are still in decline first appeared on Envirotec.

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