Wetlands are presently one of the most endangered ecosystems. Since 1700, there has been a reported 3.4 million km2 (approximately 21%) global wetland loss, which is about threefold greater than forest loss. Although this appears to be positive news in contrast with previous statistics, it is critical to protect the wetlands from future devastation.
Some of the main reasons for wetland extinction are drainage for upland crops, conversion to flooded rice fields, and urban growth. Before discussing further the concerning situation of global wetland loss, Let’s first understand what a wetland is.
Heterogeneous wetland loss across countries, peat land regions, and river basins of the world.
USEPA defined wetlands as “Wetlands are places where water is present at or near the soil’s surface all year long or for various periods of time throughout the year, including the growing season”These are the areas of land where the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems meet. In wetlands, the land is typically covered in shallow water, or the water table is at or near the surface.
Why is Wetland Loss Concerning?
Nearly 4 billion people on this planet are depended on wetlands for food and water security benefits.If we calculate the monetary benefits of wetlands, it will be around $47.4 trillion a year. Wetlands were long thought of as wastelands. Now, it is known how important they are for flood mitigation, groundwater recharge, water purification, and carbon storage.
Wetlands are the primary home for the majority of the world’s water birds. It is also critical habitat for migratory species, making them essential for biodiversity conservation. The value of ecosystem services provided by inland and coastal wetlands is often greater than that of other ecosystem types.
At times of storms, wetlands along rivers and streams absorb energy and retain water, reducing downstream flood damage and the possibility of flash floods. During times of drought, the gradual release of this water that has been held can assist in keeping streams running.
How Can It Be Protected?
Wetland conversion to cropland, water diversion through dams and canals, and infrastructure development, particularly along river valleys and coastal areas, are the primary causes of wetland loss. To counteract this degradation, a number of actions, such as integrated policies concentrating on the environmental services of the wetlands while comprehending the human needs to be met, required to be implemented. Restoring damaged wetlands and raising awareness about the advantages of wetlands can also help save wetlands from extinction.