© Mazidi Abd Ghani/ WWF-Malaysia
Valuing Wetlands
From water and food security to reducing poverty and disaster risk, healthy wetlands are essential for our daily survival - and for tackling the world's climate and nature crises, and driving sustainable development.
But the world’s wetlands are in crisis. We have lost over a third since 1970. And we are continuing to degrade and destroy them – rivers and reefs, marshes and mangroves, swamps and seagrass beds.
© Pheakdey Sorn/IUCN

Over 1/3rd of wetlands have been lost in the past 50 years

Saving the World's Life Support Systems
Valuing healthy wetlands
The world's freshwater and ocean wetlands are our life support systems. They are essential for thriving societies and economies. They also sustain extraordinary biodiversity.
  • 2 billion people depend directly on rivers for their drinking water;
  • 1 billion people rely on freshwater and coastal fisheries as their primary protein;
  • 1 billion people's livelihoods are directly dependent on wetlands;
  • 30% of land-based carbon is stored in peatlands;
  • Climate adaptation - reducing the impact of extreme floods, storms, droughts and sea level rise;
  • Cultural, spiritual and recreational values; and
  • Sustain 40% of species on Earth

With the international community accelerating global efforts to protect 30% of the planet, fulill commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, it is time to urgently scale up investment in protecting, restoring and sustainably managing our wetlands.

We cannot survive without healthy rivers, reefs, peatlands, seagrass beds, marshes and mangroves. And as the impacts of climate change worsen, investing in healthy wetlands offers us powerful Nature-based Solutions to strengthen adaptation and build resilience.
For the last 20 years, WWF has been one of the Ramsar Convention’s most committed partners, supporting the designation of 110 million hectares of Ramsar sites across the world.
© Jorge Sierra/WWF-Spain
Key Actions
There are a wide array of actions that WWF is working alongside countries to improve efforts to value wetlands. The following three elements are key to delivering significant impacts:

© Santiago Gibert/WWF-México


However much we would like to, there is no way to protect all the world’s wetlands: there will need to be tradeoffs. This will involve hard decisions. Countries will need to prioritize – basing their decisions on the values of their most important wetlands and their potential contribution to commitments under the SDGs, Convention on Biological Diversity and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

© naturepl.com/Jose B Ruiz/WWF


Countries need to commit fully to their Ramsar sites – both new and old. Designating a site means more than drawing some lines on a map and giving them a Ramsar number: it’s essential that new and existing sites are protected in practice as well as on paper. WWF believes it is critical to bolster the Ramsar Advisory Missions (RAMs), which help countries identify and address the wetland challenges they face.  RAMs need to be strengthened, supported, given adequate resources, and utilized by countries – as well as recommended by NGOs – to help ensure the ecological character of the world’s most important wetlands are maintained so that they continue to deliver benefits to both people and nature.

© Camila Diaz/WWF

Innovate and Partner

Along with traditional on-the-ground protection, countries need to adopt and implement innovative approaches to securing wetlands These could include rethinking investments that negatively impact Ramsar sites and seizing the opportunities offered by bankable water solutions to protect our wetlands. Corporate water stewardship also provides an opportunity to explore partnerships and creates a space for the private sector to come on board as a key partner for wetland protection.