Wetland ecosystems conservation is essential
Closer cooperation GTOS-Ramsar Convention
15 June 2006, Rome – “Conservation of wetland ecosystems is essential not only for sustainable fresh water supply but also for preserving biodiversity and ensuring other services necessary to the health and well-being of people around the world,” FAO Assistant Director-General Alexander Müller said at the signing ceremony of a memorandum of cooperation between the Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS) and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.
GTOS, an international programme on global environmental change, sponsored by FAO, UNESCO, UNEP, WMO* and the International Council for Science (ICSU), plays a major role in monitoring and assessing wetland ecosystems in order to address loss and degradation.
The Convention on Wetlands was born in 1971 in Ramsar, Iran, when very few governments had environmental concerns. This intergovernmental forum on wetland conservation issues today gathers 152 contracting parties.
The agreement signed on June 13 provides for joint actions related to “the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local, regional and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world.”
“Wetlands offer a wide range of services to farmers and people in general; yet human populations can be considered at the source of the causes leading to the loss and degradation of these fragile ecosystems,” Mr. Müller said.
Warning against the harmful consequences to human well-being of increased wetland ecosystems degradation or unsustainable use, Mr. Müller stressed “the urgent need to reverse the trend, or else the situation could grow significantly worse.”
“Wetlands need conservation and wise management, because they are used for water supply and food resources, including fishing, hunting, irrigation, energy production, recreation and many other uses,” said the Secretary-General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, Peter Bridgewater.
“The key issues tackled by GTOS, such as land use and land-cover change, water resources management, loss of biodiversity, climate change, pollution and toxicity, provide a strong basis to improve our knowledge of wetlands dynamics, a crucial component in assessing freshwater supply, demand and crisis within sustainable food and agriculture systems,” FAO expert Lucilla Spini said.
Different types of wetlands have been recognized by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. “Particular attention should be placed on coastal wetlands and mangrove forests, being places of remarkable biological productivity and intense human population pressure,” according to FAO.
Reconciling people and nature
The agreement between GTOS and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands calls attention to the importance of partnerships to address the global challenge linked to freshwater supply.
The activities to be implemented jointly by GTOS and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands consider the specificity of the coastal zones and highlight the importance of cooperation with other relevant mechanisms, such as the World Heritage Convention and the MedWet Initiative.
“The ultimate objective of the international cooperation in this field is to reconcile people and nature in wetland ecosystems,” said Mr. Müller, who praised Italy for its support to GTOS, which allows for the development and execution of pilot initiatives.
* The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); the UN Environment Programme (UNEP); the World Meteorological Organization (WMO)
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