Wildlife & Biodiversity

Include wetland conservation in upcoming biodiversity, climate change negotiations: Experts

Experts suggested 5 wetland conservation targets for 2030 should be discussed during CoP15, CoP27

By Himanshu Nitnaware
Published: Tuesday 21 June 2022
Include wetland conservation in CoP15, CoP27 negotiations: Experts Photo: iStock

Wetland conservation should feature as an independent topic of discussion in the negotiations at the upcoming biodiversity and climate change conferences for effective carbon sequestration, according to a new report. 

Experts from the Wetlands International, a global non-profit, in a new white paper suggested five global, science-based conservation efforts to protect and restore wetlands. 

The suggestions come in the run up to the 15th Conference of Parties (CoP15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity to be held in Montreal, Canada and the 27th Conference of Parties (CoP27) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Egypt later this year.

The five suggested targets to be achieved by 2030 include: 

  • Remaining, undrained peatland carbon stores should be kept intact and 10 million hectares of drained peatlands need should be restored
  • Global mangrove cover of 20 per cent
  • Preservation of free-flowing rivers and flood plains, along with enhancement of restoring floodplain ecosystem and its function in the area 
  • 10 per cent increase of west African river Volta in tidal flats area
  • Identification of 50 per cent of the 7,000 critically important sites along the flyways to be brought under favourable management
  • The actions are especially urgent since CoP15 was delayed four times and the planet is facing an ecological emergency with global destruction of biodiversity, the non-profit mentioned. 

Ritesh Kumar, head of Wetlands International South Asia, said at present the protection and restoration of wetlands remains unaccounted for in the global nature and climate agreements of the Global Biodiversity Framework, 2002. “It failed to mention ‘wetlands’ in text,” he said.

Wetlands are disappearing three times faster than forests, Kumar said: “The wetlands account for just six per cent of the plant but are home to 40 per cent of world’s plant and animals.”

Every year, 200 new species are found in freshwater wetlands and are responsible for sequestering almost one third of the global soil carbon, he added. 

The Convention on Biological Diversity must affirm specific targets on these ecosystems, to ensure affirmative actions are taken to restore and maintain the biodiversity, Kumar said. 

Negotiations at CoP15 will focus on achieving global biodiversity targets coinciding to protect 30 per cent land and sea, the report noted. However, including wetlands into land and ocean targets fails to recognise the specific and unique characteristics of wetlands interfacing between land and water, the experts said.

The conventional discussions over landscape conservation revolve around reducing deforestation for carbon sequestration, according to Kumar. The conservation efforts extend to the oceans for the same purpose, he added. “But such discussions fail to recognise the unique significance of wetlands that interface between the two, to mitigate carbon emissions.”

Destruction of mangrove forests results in 10 per cent of global CO2 emissions, but they still receive less attention than tropical forests, he said, adding: 

Similarly, peatlands which comprise just 3 per cent of the global land surface, hold 30 per cent of the total carbon stored on land, which is roughly twice the amount stored in the world’s forests. Hence, wetlands play a key role in climate crisis mitigation globally.

Experts said that the event will prevail discussions on a fifth of the degraded marine, terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems. 

“I've experienced the devastating impacts of climate change first hand in my home country of Uganda, where we frequently suffer the consequences of too much or too little water, through storms, floods and droughts,” said Patience Nabukalu, a climate justice activist with Fridays for Future Most Affected People and Areas, Uganda. 

Kumar added that wetlands may comprise a minor portion of the planet, but are crucial parts of the ecosystem and are under tremendous pressure.

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