ecosystems are part of our natural wealth. A recent assessment
of the dollar value of our natural ecosystems estimated
them at US$ 33 trillion.
study estimated the global value of wetland ecosystems
at an amazing US$ 14.9 trillion, 45% of the total.
The Ramsar Bureau
It is no accident
that river valleys and their floodplains have been the
focus of human civilisations for over 6,000 years
and that many other wetland systems have been equally
critical to the development and survival of human communities.
This simply reflects the key role that water and wetlands
have played throughout human life. Our advancing technological
skills may seem to have supplanted the role of Nature,
but recent environmental catastrophes floods, landslides,
storms, many with their roots in unsustainable land use
practices suggest otherwise. The reality is that
we still depend on our natural ecosystems to sustain us.
The multiple roles
of wetland ecosystems and their value to humanity have
been increasingly understood and documented in recent
years. This has led to massive expenditures to restore
lost or degraded hydrological and biological functions
of wetlands. But its not enough the race
is on to improve practices on a significant global scale
as the world's leaders try to cope with the accelerating
water crisis and the effects of climate change. And this
at a time when the worlds population is set to increase
by 70 million every year for the next 20 years.
consumption rose sixfold between 1900 and 1995
more than double the rate of population growth. One third
of the worlds population today lives in countries
already experiencing moderate to high water stress. By
2025, two out of every three people on Earth may well
face life in water stressed conditions.
The ability of
wetlands to adapt to changing conditions, and to accelerating
rates of change, will be crucial to communities and wildlife
everywhere as the full impact of climate change on our
ecosystem lifelines is felt. Small wonder that there is
worldwide focus on wetlands and their services to us.