Interview: Why we need a day for wetlands
Wetlands are one of the most productive, species rich and culturally intriguing habitats on earth. The theme of World Wetlands Day in 2019, draws attention to the vital role of wetlands as a natural solution to cope with climate change. Ken Irvine, Professor of Aquatic Ecosystems at IHE Delft answers a few questions on the importance of wetlands conservation and tells us more about a new, global initiative: The Alliance for Freshwater life.
Story: The Ramsar convention on wetlands remains important
The Netherlands is a country built on water and wetlands. What is the traditional Dutch way of dealing with wetlands? Drain them and turn them into polders, which increases flood risk and threatens biodiversity. Nowadays, we try to undo old wrongs by restoring wetlands, but the old-fashioned attitude is still widespread, here and in other parts of the world. Because we are now much more aware of their valuable benefits, it is becoming even more important to protect them. The Ramsar Convention plays an important international role in wetlands conservation and sustainable management. Read the story from Anne van Dam, Associate Professor of Environmental Systems Analysis.
Webinar: The State of the World's Wetlands
Join us for a webinar on the Global Wetland Outlook: State of the World's Wetlands, which will be held Monday, 4 February 2019, from 17:00-18:00 (US Eastern Standard Time). Prof. Royal Gardner and Dr. Max Finlayson, lead coordinating authors of the Global Wetland Outlook, will present. This free webinar is co-sponsored by the Institute for Biodiversity Law and Policy, Stetson University and the Ramsar Section, Society of Wetland Scientists as a World Wetland Day event.
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.
This picture was taken by alumna Borjana Bogatinoska on September 29th 2018, in one of the river reaches in the Danube Delta in Romania. "The answer to the question of why this picture means so much to me, is because it was part of the second campaign in the Danube Delta, orginised by the project SCENT and I was given the opportunity to do hands on measurements. The main reason why I was there is because I am conducting a research, as part of my MSc thesis, on defining the problem with the water stagnation in the delta and how that influences the environment. The beauty of the Danube Delta, the largest river delta wetland in Europe, has left me speechless. There are not enough words nor pictures that can capture one of the finest, wildest, best-protected and most famous wildlife areas of this continent", says Borjana.
"During my stay in Kenya with the Limnology and Wetlands Management program and further during my research in Zambia, where I worked in the Kafue Flats, it was amazing to see how close the relationships between the people and the wetlands are. Wetlands have a direct impact on their daily life by providing them construction material, fish, acting as a water filter or simply by altering the microclimate in the surrounding area."
PhD fellow, Abdi Mehvar explains why this day is important
On 2nd February it is World Wetlands Day. Abdi Mehvar, PhD fellow, explains why this day is important for human well-being and the world.
Wicked Debate “Converting wetlands for food security: Solution or Illusion?”
Ken Irvine, Chair of Aquatic Ecosystems and Pieter van der Zaag, Chair of Water Governance took opposing sides on this topical debate on the occasion of World Wetlands Day on 2nd February.
Ken described his personal interest and affinity with wetlands from an early age, having studied and carried out research in wetlands areas of the UK. He explained that wetlands are not only essential for maintaining biodiversity but often also people’s livelihoods. Ken referred to the broad definition of wetlands of the Ramsar Covention, check in 1974 to protect them (see Anne van Dam’s article) but said on this occasion he would restrict his talk to swampy places.
He said wetlands are often referred to as ‘the kidney of the earth’, although added that this may not be strictly the case. He showed a graph (see attached), showing the continuous decline in wetlands area since 1700 and explained that this is caused by multiple factors and very often for food production. He concluded by saying that the future loss of wetlands to food production is to be opposed.
Pieter entitled his response Wicked Wetlands and maintained that it is not an illusion that converting wetlands is the answer to feeding the growing world population (see graph in presentation). He gave examples of how this conversion has been taking place for centuries and therefore is sustainable. The reason the Netherlands is the second largest food producer in the world is due to just that, but conceded that there is a problem of overuse of nitrates and phosphate. He gave another example of where rice was grown in a mangrove area in Senegal and was successful because of ancient, traditional management that avoided salt penetration. He concluded that society has co-evolved with nature and will continue to do so in the face of the growing population, with wetlands an important part of the solution.
There followed a lively Q&A session with some pertinent and tricky questions being posed by staff and students and a general consensus that managing the scale and intensity of food production is the key to achieving the necessary balance to protect wetlands.
Download the presentation here
Building with nature
The overall objective of the Building with Nature project is to make coasts, estuaries and catchments of the North South region (UK, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Belgium and The Netherlands) more adaptable and resilient to the effects of climate change using nature based solutions. The Building with Nature project will exchange experiences (bad and best practices) of Building with Nature projects in this region. They involve 7 coastal target sites in NL, D, DK, SE (sand nourishment at North Sea Coasts and Wadden Sea barrier islands) and at 6 catchment scale sites in B, NL, SE, SCO (e.g. river restoration, room for the river and wetlands) referred to as 'laboratories'. The Building with Nature project creates joint transnational monitoring programmes, uses state-of-the-art analysis methods, develops improved designs and business cases. The laboratories generate the evidence-base to incorporate building with nature concepts in national policy and investment programmes of each of the NSR countries (worth >€200M/y).
Nile Basin Wetlands & Benin wetlands
Our PhD participant Maximin Djondo is doing his research on the wetland people (Toffinou) and their relation with ecosystem services in the Lac Nokoue wetland in Benin. IHE Delft is involved in the OmiDelta bilateral programme that addresses WASH and IWRM in the delta of the Oueme river in Benin. Lac Nokoue is part of the delta.
Lac Nokoue, Benin. Ramsar site (copyright Hans van der Kwast)
Xochimilco wetland (Mexico)
IHE Delft entered a collaboration with the autonomous national university of Mexico (UNAM) and specifically with its Sustainability Sciences Institute (LANCIS). The cooperation includes both joint education and joint research. A recent example is a jointly coordinated course on Urban Wetlands as Socio-Ecological systems that is part of UNAM’s postgraduate programme. The course took place between 14 and 26 January 2019 and used Xochimilco wetland in Mexico city as a case study. Xochimilco wetland is a UNESCO heritage site with unique ecological and cultural characterstics. It is famous for it so called ‘ chinampas’ as pre-Hispanic agricultural system.
Read more here