Delft, The Netherlands, 31 Jan 2020

World Wetlands Day 2020 Biodiversity

Despite the more ignoble efforts of some social media posts, there should no longer be any doubt about the appropriateness of the term “crisis” to describe the current state of global biodiversity decline (IPBES).

In a week that the once groundbreaking safeguarding of inland waters of the US Clean Water Act (1972) have been rolled back, massive fish kills are occurring in Australia as ash and sediment from unprecedented bush fires enter rivers, and East Africa is suffering from locust swarms that evoke biblical catastrophe, it would be easy to escape into the comfort of an old Hollywood movie-when we know from the start that everything will “be ok”. 

Tempting as such respite may be, that will not help solve environmental problems, or address the economic drivers or mindsets that leads to them. World Wetlands Day 2nd February provides a moment to reflect, however, that something can be done. The biodiversity theme this year is a reminder that wetlands support a wealth of plants and animals, their importance as ports of call for bird and fish migrations, and how that biodiversity underpins the vital social and economic services that wetlands provide for human well-being.

Thousands of events worldwide that celebrate World Wetlands Day can also inspire us to do a little bit more, as individuals and in partnerships.  At IHE Delft everyday is a wetlands day, as we build knowledge about wetlands through our teaching, research and outreach with global partners.  We share the vision of a world where people better understand, value, and safeguard freshwater biodiversity (https://allianceforfreshwaterlife.org/), putting our pen where our mouth is. The article The Alliance for Freshwater Life: A global call to unite efforts for freshwater biodiversity science and conservation by Darwall et al. (2018) available as open access (https://doi.org/10.1002/aqc.2958), is just one example. IHE’s activities in building capacity for wetland management includes working with partners that range from very local scales in rural communities to being active in international initiatives such as the Scientific Technical Review Panel (STRP) of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, and the UN led initiative on the Water Quality Alliance in support of the SDGs. 

Local, or global, the interconnected IHE pillars of Education, Research and Capacity Development are targeted to provide a foundation for sustainable water management. The protection of biodiversity through knowledge and understanding is an essential part of that. This is not an abstract concept, or confined to the academic work of IHE and like-minded partners, but a day-to-day reality that we can all support, whether in a business suit or a pair of Wellington boots.  Playing our part in finding solutions to the biodiversity crisis, and especially for wetlands that are so valuable, yet so vulnerable to a multitude of pressures and impacts, occurs at all manner of scales. Our core business is knowledge creation and exchange, and while we may not want to march in the streets to raise awareness on the human dependency on biodiversity, but each and every one of us can contribute something, whether through a small conversation or a global initiative. Sometimes one leads to the other.

Recent PhD completions on wetland management led by IHE Delft staff

Abias Uwimana (2019) Effects of wetland conversion to farming on water quality and sediment and nutrient retention in a tropical catchment.
Eskinder Zinabu Belachew  (2019) Estimating Combined Loads of Diffuse and Point-Source Pollutants into the Borkena River, Ethiopia 
Maria Gabriela Alvarez Mieles (2019) Ecological modelling of river-wetland systems : A case study for the Abras de Mantequilla wetland in Ecuador
For more on the IHE Aquatic Ecosystems Group follow this link.

Relevant websites

See also IUCN: https://www.iucn.org/crossroads-blog
Ramsar: https://www.worldwetlandsday.org/
The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) https://ipbes.net/
Extinction Rebellion (https://rebellion.earth/)

IHE Delft MSc programmes focused on wetlands and biodiversity

MsC programme Applied Aquatic Ecology for Sustainability
MsC programme Limnology and Wetland Management

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