Wetlands are home to some of the richest biodiversity on Earth. They are found all over the world from the equatorial tropics to the frozen plains of Siberia and are as crucial to the planet's well-being as any other finely balanced part of nature.
Wetlands are among the most beautiful places on Earth, and have inspired artists, travellers, poets, and photographers for generations. This is hardly surprising - wetlands are host to a spectacular array of wildlife ranging from kingfishers to caimans, herons to hippos, and an abundance of rare plant life and exotic marine creatures.
Wetlands vary enormously in size and character. They can range from a small neighbourhood pond to lakes, bogs, marshes, rivers, and desert oases, all the way to the vast, 10 million hectare Canadian Arctic bays, the huge peat bogs of Western Siberia, or the largest wetland in the world, the Pantanal in Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay - covering an area 3 times the size of Ireland.
Big or small, north or south, the function of wetlands is much the same: they provide humans with fuel, food, recreation and employment; they support an immense variety of wildlife that would otherwise become extinct; and they protect millions of people from the disastrous consequences of flooding.
Between 300 and 400 million people live close to - and depend on - wetlands. The world simply cannot do without them.