Wetlands: The key to coping with climate change
Wetlands are a natural solution The frequency of disasters worldwide has more than doubled in just 35 years, and 90% of these disasters are water-related. Even more extreme weather is predicted going forward. Wetlands play a significant role in stabilizing GHG emissions and blunting the impacts of climate change.
Wetlands buffer coastlines from extreme weather Coastal wetlands such as salt marshes, mangroves, seagrass beds, and coral reefs act like shock absorbers. They reduce the intensity of waves, storm surges, and tsunamis, shielding the 60% of humanity who lives and works along coastlines from flooding, property damage and loss of life.
Wetlands reduce floods and relieve droughts Inland wetlands such as flood plains, rivers, lakes and swamps function like sponges, absorbing and storing excess rainfall and reducing flood surges. During dry seasons in arid climates, wetlands release stored water, delaying the onset of droughts and minimizing water shortages.
Wetlands naturally absorb and store carbon Peatlands, mangroves, and seagrass store vast amounts of carbon. Peatlands cover about 3% of our planet’s land and store approximately 30% of all landbased carbon–twice the amount than all the world’s forests combined.
Wetlands are the most effective carbon sinks on Earth. We must not drain our wetlands When drained or burned for agriculture (as wetlands often are) they go from being a carbon sink to a carbon source, releasing into the atmosphere centuries of stored carbon. CO2 emissions from drained and burned peatlands equate to 10% of all annual fossil fuel emissions.
We must conserve and restore our wetlands Strategies that address climate change must include the wise use of wetlands. We’ve already lost 35% since 1970. Individuals, communities and governments must work together to protect these amazing ecosystems, which help us prepare for, cope with and bounce back from the impacts of climate change.