Conserving freshwater habitats

WWF is working to restore degraded freshwater habitats and implement a representative network of well-managed freshwater protected areas.
WWF's Global Freshwater Programme has a long history of promoting the protection of freshwater habitats. For example, about 75% of new sites included in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance since 1999 are the result of WWF’s work at different levels.

Working with the Ramsar Convention, national governments, international river basin organizations and other institutions, our work to protect freshwater habitats includes:

  • Supporting implementation of international agreements and treaties on biodiversity and wetlands
  • Mainstreaming wetlands conservation into national laws and polices
  • Promoting payments for environmental services (PES) for financing freshwater ecosystem services
  • Assessing and increasing the representativeness of freshwater habitats in protected area networks
  • Establishing freshwater conservation networks
  • Restoring critical freshwater habitats
  • Linking freshwater enhancements to protection of downstream estuaries and marine environments such as coral reefs
 / ©: Yifei ZHANG / WWF-Canon
Pied avocets (Recurvirostra avosetta) flying at sunset in East Dongting Lake, a Ramsar wetland site. Hunan Province, China.
© Yifei ZHANG / WWF-Canon
Protecting and restoring freshwater habitats is essential for safeguarding plant and animal species dependent on these habitats, as well as the communities who rely on them for livelihoods and other services. It will also help both people and species adapt to climate change.

However, freshwater habitats in many of WWF’s priority places are either still under immediate threat or underrepresented in current protected area networks.

In most cases, existing freshwater protected areas are fragmented and disconnected from one another, and not sufficiently large or robust enough to safeguard species and freshwater ecosystem services in the face of climate change.

100 million ha of new protected wetlands

The May 2009 declaration of a high-altitude wetland in the Brazilian Andes as a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance marked a milestone for WWF – the delivery of 100 million hectares of protected wetlands in a decade.

Ramsar sites not only recognize the world's most important wetlands, but are also an effective tool to help countries further their sustainable development goals, balance conservation needs, and address poverty alleviation.

Public recognition of the value of Ramsar sites and their protection status under this international agreement have been important aids to wetlands conservation.

More on the Ramsar Convention...

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