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What are wetlands?

Wetlands occur wherever water meets land and ensure the sustainability of both.

Wetlands are areas of land covered with water seasonally or completely throughout the year. They can be natural or man-made.

Wetlands are freshwater, estuarine, or marine. Some examples of natural wetlands are rivers, lakes, swamps, marshes, peatlands, ponds, mangrove forests, seagrass meadows, and reef flats. Meanwhile, dams, rice fields, and fishponds are man-made wetlands.

Wetlands are central to the well-being of people. They regulate the water cycle that provides water for domestic uses, farming, and industrial uses.

Healthy wetlands reduce the risk of riverine and coastal flooding. They are habitats of biodiversity and support resident and migratory species. Coastal wetlands provide coastal protection and support to coastal aquaculture and fisheries. Wetlands are key in ecosystems at the nexus of climate, food, and nature.  

Wetlands are climate superheroes

Wetland flora are vital to both adaptation and mitigation. Mangrove forests and seagrass meadows protect shorelines from storm surges and sea level rise. Mangroves are also superheroes at capturing and storing carbon. In fact, it is estimated that they store four times more carbon than other tropical forests. Peatlands, such as the peat swamps in the Agusan Marsh and the Leyte Sab-a Basin Peatland, can store significantly more carbon than forests.

Conversely, the loss and degradation of wetlands exacerbates the climate crisis by releasing greenhouse gases and leaving ecosystems, and the people dependent on them, more vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Wetlands are biodiversity havens

Wetlands support biodiversity from large predators like sharks and crocodiles to migratory birds and fish. They are also home to several endemic species, not found anywhere else on the planet, like mudskippers and the Indian bullfrog. Several animal and plant species are threatened or near extinction, and a large number of them depend on wetlands for their survival.

Wetlands ensure water security

Almost all of the world’s freshwater is drawn directly from wetlands. Wetlands play a crucial role in water purification, storage, and flood control. Marshlands and peat swamps act like sponges – absorbing excess water in times of heavy rainfall, and releasing it slowly in times of drought. Seagrass meadows and mangrove roots remove impurities and saline from seawater. Wetlands are so central to the water cycle, that without wetlands, we would not have freshwater. And unfortunately, the climate crisis is also a water crisis.