More than a Billion People Depend on Wetlands for Livelihoods, Says Ramsar Convention Secretariat on World Wetlands Day Tue, Feb 2, 2016

Today marks the 45th anniversary of signing the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

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Francesco Veronesi CC

Gland, Switzerland, 2 February 2016 - Celebrated today under the theme "Wetlands for our Future: Sustainable Livelihoods", the World Wetlands Day 2016 marks the 45th anniversary of signing of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. Over 800 events worldwide will highlight the vital role of wetlands for human wellbeing and promote their sustainable use.

It is estimated that more than a billion people around the world make their living directly from wetlands, including from fishing, rice farming or handicrafts. Other sectors such as travel and eco-tourism, water transport and aquaculture also depend on the health of these ecosystems.

And yet some 64 per cent of the world's wetlands have disappeared since 1900; many of them converted for agricultural use or urban development, putting a billion livelihoods at risk. Coastal, marine and inland wetlands are declining fast. Approximately 40 per cent have been degraded in just over 40 years according to the Wetland Extent Trend and this decline is continuing at an accelerated rate of 1.5 per cent annually.

"This alarming loss means it is urgent for people to understand that preserving wetlands does not have to mean restricting economic growth or depriving people of livelihoods. But quite the opposite," said Ania Grobicki, Acting Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

"2016 marks the dawn of a new era. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted last September map out the route from the vicious circle of environmental degradation towards a virtuous cycle where we preserve, restore and wisely use ecosystems precisely because they are vital for our prosperity," she added.

Until today, 169 countries have signed the Convention on Wetlands and over 2,200 sites have been designated and recognized as Wetlands of International Importance, covering an area of 208 million hectares - that is larger than Mexico.

The new Ramsar Strategy 2016-2024 calls for featuring wetland benefits in strategies and plans for key sectors, such as water, energy, mining, agriculture, tourism, urban development, infrastructure, industry, forestry, aquaculture and fisheries at the national and local level. It also calls for wetland functions, services and benefits to be widely demonstrated and documented.

To celebrate the World Wetlands Day 2016, the Ramsar Secretariat has assembled a range of inspiring stories that demonstrate how wetlands provide sustainable livelihoods. The stories are available at:

To, encourage the participation of young people, a photo competition open to anyone aged 15 to 24 starts today and will run through 2 March 2016. Young photographers are invited to capture an image showing how "wetlands are essential for sustainable livelihoods," and upload as many as 3 photos to the World Wetlands Day website - The winner of the photo contest will enjoy a free flight to visit a wetland anywhere in the world, courtesy of Star Alliance.


About World Wetlands Day

2 February each year is World Wetlands Day. Since 1997 the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention, thanks to Danone-Evian, produces communication and information materials that support country events and activities. More information:

About the Ramsar Convention

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands is the intergovernmental treaty that provides the global framework for the conservation and wise use of wetlands. It is the only global treaty to focus on a single ecosystem. The Convention was signed in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971 and entered into force in 1975. Since then, 169 countries, almost 90 per cent of UN member states, from all of the world's geographic regions have acceded and become Contracting Parties.

Under this treaty, Member States undertake to protect and sustainably use all the wetlands on their territory by undertaking local measures and collaborating internationally to maintain the ecological characteristics of wetlands.

About wetlands

The definition of the word 'wetland', under the Convention, is any land area that is saturated or flooded with water, either seasonally or permanently. Inland wetlands include aquifers, lakes, rivers, streams, marshes, peatlands, ponds, flood plains and swamps. Coastal wetlands include all coastlines, mangroves, saltmarshes, estuaries, lagoons, seagrass meadows and coral reefs.

Contact Information: Camilla Chalmers, Head of Communication, +41 79 949 6013,

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