Wetlands are vital ecosystems that offer numerous ecological and economic advantages. They support local livelihoods, help to maintain water quality, and are home to a wide variety of plant and animal species. Despite their significance, human activity has resulted in the loss of one-fifth of the world's wetlands since 1700, with the majority of these losses taking place in Europe, China, and the US. To get a more accurate worldwide picture, researchers integrated global history records with maps of today's wetlands. They discovered that 20% of all wetlands had been lost. With Ireland losing more than 90% of its wetlands, Germany, Lithuania, and Hungary losing more than 80%, and the UK, the Netherlands, and Italy losing more than 75%, Europe was the region most severely impacted (Weston, 2023).
Importance of Wetlands
Wetlands are geographical regions where the water level remains at or above the surface of the ground for the majority of the year. They can be found in freshwater and saltwater habitats and include marshes, swamps, bogs, and fens. One of the world's most productive ecosystems are wetlands. No other habitat can match the benefits provided by wetlands. Numerous plant and animal species, many of which are uncommon or endangered, depend on them for large amounts of food. These animals spend all or a portion of their life cycle in wetlands. Dead plant stems and leaves decompose in the water to produce tiny organic particles known as "detritus." Many small aquatic species that serve as prey for larger predatory animals are fed by this material. They offer crucial ecological services such carbon storage, water filtration, and flood control. Wetlands act as organic sponges, absorbing and gradually releasing floodwaters, rainwater, snowmelt, and surface water. The distribution of flood waters over the floodplain is additionally slowed down by trees, root mats, and other wetland vegetation. Our safety and welfare can be protected by protecting wetlands.
How Can We Help?
It is crucial to act locally and globally in order to combat the disappearance of wetlands. In order to stop the rapid loss of wetlands and promote conservation and restoration efforts, it is crucial that we increase national and international awareness of them. This may entail taking steps to preserve and restore already-existing wetlands as well as developing new wetlands through restoration initiatives. We should work to alter attitudes so that communities and governments would value and prioritize wetlands. Governments can also take action to control land use and development near wetlands and to support environmentally friendly industrial and agricultural operations that have no negative impact on wetlands.
Cause of Loss
Wetlands are disappearing at an alarming rate despite their significance. Numerous environmental factors, such as erosion, land subsidence, droughts, sea level change, and storms, can have an impact on the development of wetlands. But throughout the past few centuries, human activities have been responsible for the vast majority of wetland losses and gains. Agriculture, urbanization, industrial growth, as well as practices such as drainage, damming, and mining, are the main causes of wetland loss. For many years, wetlands have been filled or drained for agriculture or construction, which has resulted in the loss of habitat and many other crucial wetland services. Wetlands have been drained for thousands of years because farmers have considered them to be unproductive soil. However, throughout the last century, the pace of destruction has sharply accelerated. This has rendered wetlands one of the planet's most endangered ecosystems, due to the effects of the climate crisis, groundwater extraction, fires, and increasing sea levels. When farmers were subsidized by the government to drain land in North America, Europe, and China to make fertile ground for agriculture and forestry, the destruction rose in the 1950s.