Protecting Wetlands: Body releases science-based targets to safeguard species-rich habitats

Wetland International calls for protection of crucial ecosystems ahead of the delayed COP15 Biodiversity Summit

A series of five science-based targets to protect the world’s wetlands by 2030 has been proposed by Wetland International ahead of the pre-COP15 negotiations in Nairobi this week.

Wetlands cover six per cent of the Earth’s surface, but are home to 40 per cent of the world’s plant and animal species. On average 200 new species are discovered in freshwater wetlands each year and these precious habitats store almost a third of global soil carbon.

Despite this, wetlands are disappearing three times faster than forests, with 35 per cent of wetland ecosystems lost since 1970.

The much-delayed COP15 – which was originally planned for Kunming in China but is now set to take place in Montreal in December after a series of pandemic-induced postponements – will negotiate a new package of global biodiversity targets, including proposals to protect 30 per cent of land and sea by 2030.

However, Wetlands International has this week warned that absorbing wetlands into land and ocean targets fails to account for the specific and unique properties of wetlands as interfaces between land and water, which must be managed under their own set of targets.

The protection and restoration of wetlands is not accounted for in global nature and climate agreements, and the first draft of the post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework failed to even mention ‘wetlands’ in the text, the group said.

As such, the campaign group is proposing a package of science-based targets designed to protect and enhance wetland habitats and the carbon sinks they provide.

Specifically, the group is calling for any new Biodiversity Treaty to include goals to ensure that the planet’s remaining undrained peatland carbon stores remain intact, with a further 10 million hectares of drained peatland restored; that free-flowing rivers and floodplains are preserved with river connectivity enhanced, restoring floodplain ecosystem functionality and area; that governments deliver a net gain of 20 per cent in global mangrove cover, as well as a net gain of 10 per cent in the area of ​​tidal flats and that half of the of the estimated 7,000 critically important sites identified along flyways come under favorable management .

“Wetlands are vital to securing a liveable future for people and nature,” said Jane Madgwick, CEO of Wetlands International. “Yet these crucial ecosystems continue to be undervalued and overlooked. Wetlands are literally going up in smoke and down the drain. It is astonishing that we have no global wetlands targets to reverse these negative trends. We are in a critical decade for action and COP15 must move wetlands to the top of the agenda. Join us in calling for ambitious targets for the conservation and large-scale restoration of the world’s wetlands, before it really is too late.”

Dr Ritesh Kumar, who is head of Wetlands International South Asia and has been part of drafting India’s National Biodiversity Targets, added: “Wetlands may only cover a small portion of the planet, but they are a critical ecosystem that we heavily rely on, and yet under tremendous pressure.

“The Convention on Biological Diversity must not lump wetlands in targets for land and sea, rather affirm specific targets on these ecosystems, thus ensuring affirmative actions for bending the biodiversity curve.”

In related news, the Guardian reported today that it has seen draft proposals to create five new highly protected marine areas in UK waters in which fishing would be banned. The proposed areas – along the coast of Lindisfarne in Northumberland and at Allonby Bay, Cumbria, and at two offshore sites in the North Sea and one at Dolphin Head in the Channel – would be subject to strict new rules designed to enable marine habitat and fish stock recovery.

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