Environmental Protection

Wetlands Experts Stress Value, Fear Assault of Ecosystem

According to 700 leading world experts concluding a meeting in Cuiaba, Brazil, people need to recognize the value of wetlands and plan and properly invest in preserving and protecting them now, or the cost will be much greater later.

The experts issued the Cuiaba Declaration on July 25, the final day of the 8th INTECOL International Wetlands Conference, convened on the northern edge of the world's largest tropical wetland, the Pantanal. The Pantanal Regional Environmental Program was a joint effort of the United Nations University and Brazil's Federal University of Mato Grasso. The declaration stresses the rising value of wetlands in an increasingly urbanized world, especially such services as water storage and purification, and recreation.

Wetlands include marshes, tidal marshes, peat bogs, swamps, river deltas, mangroves, tundra, lagoons, and river floodplains. They are under assault, due to agriculture, grazing, aquaculture, dams, waste disposal, invasive species, and other problems caused by human activity.

In their statement, delegates from 28 nations lament "inadequate national development policies, lack of implementation of existing laws, and the lack of long-term land use planning that negatively affect wetlands on public and private property."

They also call for help establishing such basic information tools as a mapped inventory of wetlands based on universally-accepted definitions, which do not exist. They call on the 158 nations that are party to the Ramsar Convention to help remedy these and other information gaps. The Ramsar Convention, which regulates global wetland management and protection, requires nation signatories to establish and implement a specific wetland policy, to prepare a wetland inventory, and to maintain the ecological character of all wetlands.

Of particular concern to the Pantanal experts is the expected damage to wetlands due to climate change – and the exacerbation of climate change if wetlands continue to deteriorate and release potentially massive stores of greenhouse gases, both carbon and more potent methane.

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