Importance Of Wetlands


Wetlands are regions where water meets the land at the surface level, and periodically or permanently water covers the soil at varying levels throughout the year. The spread of water for long periods supports the growth of hydrophytes (water-loving plants) and hydric soil. Water is the principal factor in this type of ecosystem. The water level regulated the environment and the associated flora and fauna. Wetlands support both terrestrial and aquatic life forms. Wetlands support all life forms' survival and help provide purified water and maintain soil fertility. Wetlands are found in all climatic zones from polar to dry regions across the world.   

Definition Of Wetland

As per the Ramsar Convention, a wetland is defined as follows: Article 1.1-- "areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six metres". Source: Ramsar Information paper No 1.

And along with this definition, Ramsar convention has also included coastal zones of international importance. It is defined under Article 2.1 -- wetlands of international importance "may incorporate riparian and coastal zones adjacent to the wetlands, and islands or bodies of marine water deeper than six metres at low tide lying within the wetlands". Source: Ramsar Information paper No 1. 

Importance Of Wetlands

Wetlands are not wastelands. Importance of wetlands ranges from the protection of biodiversity to regulating climate change. Here are some of the ways wetlands are useful to people and wildlife:

Serves As Home To A Variety Of Flora And Fuana

Like tropical evergreen forests and other ecosystems, wetlands harbour wild animals from small insects to large mammals. The abundance of water throughout the year attracts many animals for food and breeding purposes.

Mangrove type of wetlands is home to reptiles like alligators, crocodiles, many different kinds of snakes, birds like herons, spoonbills, many mammals, and other wildlife. For example, the mangrove forests of the Sundarbans in India and Bangladesh is home to the Bengal tigers, salt-water crocodiles, sambar deer, many species of birds, snakes, invertebrates, and more.

Wetlands and its importance to the watershed

Watershed is a place where water, sediments, snow and the like is collected and drained at a common point and helps discharge to an outlet in a low-lying area to a waterbody. This geographic area could be a few hectares in small ponds to hundreds of square kilometres in case of rivers. The well-being of the watershed can be assessed by the wetlands. Rivers and other streams circulate and connect ecosystems, and wetlands stores and filter water and other material components. Since watersheds are made up of such interconnected systems, it is vital to maintain the wetlands' health from pollution and other human interventions which are detrimental.

Wetlands and its importance on agriculture and food

Wetlands make the land exceptionally fertile because of its very nature of abundance of water and soil nutrients, helping the farming community get more yield. Wetlands help trap the water and release the trapped water slowly into the outlets making the land fertile. Dead trees, rootstocks and key elements play an equal role in this mechanism. Like forests wetlands too act like a sponge. Setting aside the natural wetlands, human-made wetlands like the irrigated paddy fields and the like are essential for food production-- rice is the staple food for billions of people.

Wetlands and its importance to the people

From food protection to climate change regulator wetlands provides unparalleled services. Humans benefit the most from protecting the wetlands by not exploiting the same to the fullest.

Fishing is another significant value of wetlands across the globe. Destruction of wetlands through ill-planned development, excessive commercial fishing, industrial discharge with no proper environmental regulations, wastewater let-out without any treatment directly into the water body, river diversion, interlinking of rivers and any other threat that hampers the water flow into the wetland and the discharge of purified water from the wetland to the rivers will lead to disastrous consequences to the fishing community.


Why conservation of the wetlands matters the most and is the need of the hour: The total area of wetlands in the world is close to 6%. Studies show that we have almost lost more than 50% of wetlands in the world, and the damage caused would be irreparable. For our survival, all of us need to be, at first, be aware of the wetland importance and get to know them scientifically and use good science, data and knowledge-driven and judicial action plans. Taking one small step at a time and timely intervention in any corner of the world would help save the wetlands on the verge of getting destroyed.

Being part of organisations with the domain experts in the field of wetland conservation is primary.

Scientifically managing any habitat will result in less damage and aiming for a win-win solution is always feasible.


More in Environment