World Wetlands Day 2010: 'Wetlands, Biodiversity and Climate Change' stresses the fact that caring for wetlands is a part of the solution to climate change with the slogan: 'Caring for wetlands - an answer to climate change.'
Wetlands are vulnerable to human-induced climate change but, if managed well, they also play a role in its mitigation. These habitats will also be important in helping humans to adapt to climate change through their critical role in ensuring water and food security.
On 2 February 1971, the 'Ramsar Convention on Wetlands' was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar to provide the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands.
Carrying out this complex and challenging task requires that all bodies involved in implementing the convention have up-to-date and reliable information to understand wetland areas better, complete national inventories, perform monitoring activities, carry out assessments and put appropriate management plans in practice.
In fact, the convention's 159 contracting parties are obliged to report on the state of wetlands for which they are responsible. Today, 1886 wetlands have been designated as Wetlands of International Importance, a total area of over 185 million hectares.
ESA's GlobWetland II project, launched last month, will contribute to the setting up of a Global Wetlands Observing System (G-WOS) in accordance with Ramsar's 2009 strategic plan. GlobWetland II was based on the findings and achievements of its precursor GlobWetland I, which ran from 2003 to 2008 and demonstrated how data from Earth observation satellites can support the inventorying, monitoring and assessing of wetland ecosystems. The project was carried out in collaboration with the Ramsar Convention.
"Earth observation is playing an increasingly important role in the inventory, assessment, monitoring and management of wetlands," said Nick Davidson, Deputy Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention.
"We are highly appreciative of the support of ESA, especially through its GlobWetland initiative, and congratulate ESA on the launch of the GlobWetland II project which will not only help increase the capacity of a number of Mediterranean countries to achieve the wise use of wetlands and manage their Ramsar sites but will also contribute to informing the work of the Convention's Scientific & Technical Review Panel in developing a G-WOS partnership for assessing and reporting on the status and trends of wetlands."
GlobWetland II aims to develop a G-WOS pilot information system to produce a number of wetland-related geo-information maps and indicators over 200 wetland sites and surrounding areas for different points in time. The geographical regions covered will be the coastal catchment areas of the southern and eastern part of the Mediterranean basin, extending from Morocco to Turkey.
The coastal catchment basins of these countries are of particular interest for biodiversity because several endemic species are listed as critically endangered or extirpated, where a species no longer exists in a certain area, by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
GlobWetland II will be developed through close partnership with the Ramsar Secretariat and its Scientific and Technological Review Panel, the MedWet Secretariat and its Observatory of Mediterranean Wetlands (hosted by the Tour du Valat in France) and the Ramsar National Focal Points and supporting conservation agencies from the subject countries.
At the end of the two-year project, the GlobWetland II information system will be installed at a number of partner organisations and supporting agencies to help them fulfil their reporting obligation to Ramsar and to manage better their wetlands.
The GlobWetland II project is taking place as part of ESA's Earth observation Data User Element.