Wetlands: among the world’s most productive environments
The wide array of benefits they provide include flood and drought management – wetlands soak up excess water and release it slowly - water purification through filtration, production of natural resources (e.g. fish and reeds), recreation and many others.
By absorbing water during the wet season and gradually releasing it during the dry season, wetlands refill aquifers and other drinking water supplies.
Wetlands not only supply water, but they cleanse it too. When water enters a wetland, it filters out impurities before allowing the water to leave. The wetland vegetation, such as reeds, plays a large role in this filtering system as it uses its roots and stems to trap and gather sediments comprised of both chemicals and nutrients.
The Convention on Wetlands, signed in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971, provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. There are presently 146 Contracting Parties to the Convention, with 1469 wetland sites, totalling 128,9 million hectares, designated for inclusion in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance.
Danube Wetlands – a good investment into the future
The Danube provides drinking water for 20 million people. Water purification through nutrient retention of Danube floodplains is worth an estimated €369 million per year.
There is more life in one acre of a healthy wetland than there is in one acre of almost any other kind of habitat. 100 fish species live in the Danube. 5,000 animal species live along the river.
The multiple roles of wetland ecosystems and their value to humanity have been increasingly understood and documented in recent years. This has led to larger and larger wetland areas being protected and restored. The value of the various benefits from Danube floodplains is estimated to be at least €500 per hectare a year.
Paying for ecosystem services
When freshwater habitats are destroyed, we lose the beneficial ecosystem services they provide to people. This undermines the sustained well-being of future generations, and directly affects the livelihoods of many people who depend on these services.
Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) is an innovative approach to nature conservation.
Payments for Ecosystem Services is the name given to a variety of arrangements through which the beneficiaries of environmental services, from watershed protection and forest conservation to carbon sequestration and landscape beauty, reward those whose lands provide these services with subsidies or market payments.
Arranging payments for the benefits provided by forests, fertile soils and other natural ecosystems is a way to recognize their value and ensure that these benefits continue well into the future.