Feb 2

Activities are taking place around the world today to celebrate World Wetlands Day, an annual event which highlights the importance of conserving wetland habitats.

Photo of Eurasian spoonbill in wetland habitat

Eurasian spoonbill in wetland habitat. Wetlands cover around 6% of the Earth’s surface, and are vital to both wildlife and humans.

Forty years of wetland conservation

Celebrated each year on the 2nd February, World Wetlands Day marks the anniversary of the adoption of the International Convention on Wetlands, or Ramsar Convention. Now in its 40th year, the Convention has played a key role in the conservation and protection of wetland ecosystems, and continues to work towards their sustainable management for both wildlife and people.

Photo of Madagascar teal on water

The Madagascar teal is under threat from the extensive loss of wetlands in Madagascar.

Since it was first celebrated in 1997, World Wetlands Day has been marked by a huge range of activities and actions for wetlands, from lectures and seminars, to community events and the launching of new wetland policies. This year is no exception, with events taking place around the world to help raise awareness of these valuable habitats.

Forests for water and wetlands

The theme for World Wetlands Day 2011 is ‘Wetlands and Forests’, chosen because 2011 is the UN International Year of Forests.

Photo of southern river otter hiding amongst branches in swamp forest

The Southern river otter, an Endangered species which inhabits swamp forest and other freshwater habitats.

Forested wetlands, such as mangroves and swamps forests, are home to a vast array of species and are vital in freshwater management and in combating climate change. Unfortunately, many face a range of threats including development, drainage and land conversion. All types of forest play an essential role in the health of wetlands and water supplies, and their loss can affect both wildlife and humans.

Wetlands for the future

Although much has already been done to conserve the world’s wetlands, they continue to face severe and ever-increasing threats, and many internationally important sites are still in need of protection.

Photo of juvenile western swamp turtle in habitat

Wetlands are vital habitats for many different species, from birds and mammals to fish and reptiles, such as this Critically Endangered western swamp turtle.

It is hoped that World Wetlands Day 2011 will help raise awareness of these vital habitats and the many threats they face.

Visit Wetlands International for more information on World Wetlands Day.

Read more about the Ramsar Convention.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Species Text Author

Feb 2
Declared by the United Nations as the ‘International Year of Forests’, 2011 is dedicated to raising awareness on sustainable management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests. 

The International Year of Forests was officially launched today (2 February 2011) at the General Assembly Hall in New York. 

Following on from the success of the International Year of Biodiversity in 2010, the years theme is ‘Forests for People’, in celebration of the central role that humans play in sustaining the forests that are so vital to their interests and survival. 

Photo of coast redwood forest

A coast redwood forest

Forests are of great importance to the global economy 

More than 1.6 billion people worldwide depend on forests for their livelihoods in some way, with forest industries turning over US$200 billion annually. 

30 percent of the world’s forests – 1.2 billion hectares – are used primarily for the production of wood, including harvested timber, deadwood, bark, cork, fuel wood and charcoal, and non-wood products such as latex, honey, rubber, gum, nuts, berries and fruits.  In addition, around 1 billion people depend on medicines derived from forest plants. 

Photo of Okoume logged trees awaiting collection

Okoumé trees, a valuable source of commercial timber from Gabon, awaiting collection.

Photo of Ese'eja Indian opening a Brazil-nut fruit

Ese'eja Indian opening a Brazil-nut fruit. These are harvested for their valuable oil found in the seeds.

Forests  play essential roles in ecological processes  

Forests conserve soil and water, reduce the risk of flooding and erosion and are important in the control of avalanches, desertification and coastal protection. Forests are continually removing CO2 from the atmosphere, storing as much as 650 billion tonnes of carbon annually. 

Forests are also home to nearly 80 percent of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity. 

Photo of northern muriqui in Atlantic forest habitat

Northern muriqui in Atlantic forest habitat. Up to half of all known species may reside in tropical forests alone, as well as many species yet to be discovered.

However, according to a new report released by the IUCN, The Value of Investing in Locally-controlled Forestry’, the economic benefits of forests still remain massively under-valued by governments and agencies. 

Lucy Emerton, who worked on this latest IUCN report, says that governments are missing critical opportunities to invest in stimulating economic growth, sustainable development and poverty reduction.   

The report, launched today as part of the International Year of Forests official opening in New York, aims to show the global economic impact of forests if they are managed and controlled by the people who live in and around them. 

View the IUCN press release or read the full report 

Find out more about the International Year of Forests. 

Helen Roddis, ARKive Species Text Author 


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