Wetlands Could be the Heroes in the Fight Against Global Warming

Wetlands are not only the habitat of many species, they are also key ecosystems to mitigate floods and capture carbon to reverse the effects of global warming. Hence, protecting them is an increasingly pressing need.

View of a wetland

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LatinAmerican Post | Julián Andrés Pastrana Cuéllar

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According to UN records, between 1970 and 2015, 35% of the world's wetlands disappeared. In the future, the situation is even more discouraging, since it is estimated that by the end of the century between 20 and 90% of the coastal wetlands that exist today will have been lost. This is due to phenomena such as the rise in sea level caused by the climate crisis.

If these not very hopeful forecasts come true, we would be facing the total or partial extinction of some natural spaces that are capable of sequestering carbon in a percentage 55 times greater than that of the Amazon or other tropical forests.

But climate change is not the only trigger for the destruction of these ecosystems. Human development is also putting wetlands at serious risk, as suggested by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).

A Success Story in Argentina

To reverse this trend, some initiatives have been promoted in Latin America that aim to protect wetlands. An example of this was the approval of a law to permanently safeguard the Mitre Peninsula, a territory that is home to a large number of peat bogs and underwater algae forests. Both ecosystems represent the largest carbon sink in this southern nation.

It should be added that, according to the Iagua portal, peat bogs are wetlands on the surface of which plant material has agglutinated over thousands of years without fully decomposing due to being surrounded by abundant water. This means that these peatlands, despite only covering 3% of the Earth's surface, capture higher amounts of carbon than the entire set of forests on the planet. Hence, they are considered key ecosystems to combat the effects of the climate crisis that are increasingly palpable.

"Peatlands are found throughout Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC region) in three main ecological zones: subtropical lowlands, subtropical montaneous, and temperate systems in Patagonia", the report "Global Peatland Assessment 2022" notes. Therefore, the commitments and the work that is developed in the region is fundamental. Said report also points out that in addition to the importance of wetlands and peatlands for preserving the lives of thousands of species of fauna and flora, they are crucial for the economy and well-being of many people. "Peat bogs act as water reservoirs, help regulate river flow and supply many communities with water".

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Global Initiatives to Rescue Wetlands from Extinction

This new Argentine law is in line with the efforts that have been promoted worldwide to preserve wetlands. Suffice it to remember that last November a meeting of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands took place, in which the important role they play in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals was ratified.

Weeks later, the United Nations Conference on Biological Diversity was held, an event that led the various countries to commit to recovering nearly 30% of the inland water bodies that have suffered degradation while conserving freshwater ecosystems.

Preserving wetlands is relevant not only because of their role in sequestering carbon, cleaning polluted water and mitigating flooding, but also because 40% of animal and plant species live there. Unfortunately, the UN explains that in the last two centuries these ecosystems have been replaced by land used for agriculture or to develop different infrastructure projects.

In this regard, Leticia Carvalho, head of the Marine and Freshwater Branch of UNEP, has expressed that "we must stop the policies and subsidies that encourage deforestation and the degradation of wetlands from their origin to the sea and promote their urgent restoration". 

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