Soaking It All In
Wetlands of Louisiana, USA
DISASTERS—from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill
to Asian tsunamis—are spurring a global conversation about the need for wetlands conservation
Along with providing a habitat for flora and
fauna, wetlands serve as nature’s sponge, storing
water and slowly releasing it. They can reduce the
likelihood of flood damage, help control runoff
and buffer shorelines against erosion.
But modern development has run roughshod
over much of the world’s wetlands: Since 1900,
half the world’s wetlands have been destroyed.
“In developed countries, the links between
people and wetlands are lost because people don’t
depend on the wetlands for their way of life,”
says Seb Buckton, community wetlands program
manager of the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust,
Slimbridge, Gloucestershire, England. “The wetlands are still important, but the benefits to the
community are less obvious.”
Sometimes it takes a catastrophe to drive that
point home. When Hurricane Katrina hit the
shore of Louisiana, USA in 2005, its damage was
exacerbated by the fact that the state had already
lost one-third of its wetlands due to development.
What remained of the wetland ecosystem was further decimated by last year’s oil spill.
that wetlands are an
well as in
of the Interior
The spotlight grew even more as
tsunamis ripped through the coasts
of Japan and Thailand, destroying
delicate ecosystems along the way.
THE GREATER GOOD
Because wetlands are often intimately linked to
the lives—and livelihoods—of the surrounding
communities, protecting them requires attention
to the local population’s environmental, societal
and economic needs.
Unlike a forest or a habitat, you can’t just
throw a fence around a wetland.
Project managers have to promote use of
wetlands that benefits both nature and the local
economy, rather than try to conserve them