Of particular concern as well: the expected damage to wetlands due to climate change – and the exacerbation of climate change if wetlands continue to deteriorate and release potentially massive stores of greenhouse gases, both carbon and more potent methane.
In some parts of the world, the loss of wetlands could also displace huge populations that rely on wetlands for subsistence. According to South African research, an estimated 1 to 2 million rural poor in that country alone could be displaced as wetlands dry up, placing further strain on urban centres to create accommodation and employment.
"A modern wetland policy based on sound scientific knowledge and able to reconcile economic development with environmental protection and social welfare is required in all countries," the statement says.
"Some countries have high standards for wetland management, restoration, and protection; however, many others are far behind. Joint efforts across political boundaries are needed to combine all our efforts to stop and reverse the loss and degradation of wetlands. Sound policies and activities are needed now."
The Ramsar Convention, which regulates global wetland management and protection, requires nation signatories to establish and implement a specific wetland policy, to prepare a wetland inventory, and to maintain the ecological character of all wetlands.
"We call attention to the fact that many signatories have not yet fulfilled theses requirement and ask for immediate action from the respective governments," the statement says. "We encourage non-member states to join the convention and strengthen the global effort needed to sustainably manage wetlands."
(eurekalert.org July 26, 2008)