Wetland Functioning in Relation to Biodiversity Conservation and Restoration

Roland Bobbink
Dennis Whigham
Boudewijn Beltman
Jos Verhoeven
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Wetland ecosystems are a natural resource of global significance. Historically, their high level of plant and animal (especially bird) diversity is perhaps the major reason why wetland protection has become a high priority worldwide, supported by international agreements such as the Ramsar Convention and the International Convention of Biological Diversity. More recently, a number of goods and services provided specifically by wetland ecosystems have been identified that may even outweigh biodiversity in terms of their importance for human welfare and sustainable natural resource management worldwide. Wetlands, as transitional zones between land and water, provide a natural pro- tection against extreme floods and storm surges. They may also store fresh- water to be used for drinking water preparation or for irrigation. Wetlands bordering streams, rivers and lakes have a water quality enhancement func- tion that is increasingly recognized. Because riverine and lacustrine wetlands often provide a spawning habitat, their importance as a source of juvenile fish for adjacent aquatic ecosystems should not be underestimated. In addition to these local and regional benefits, wetlands as a global resource provide a net sink of carbon dioxide.The world’s peatlands are the only type of terrestrial ecosystem with a long-term net carbon storage function. However, the large amounts of carbon that have accumulated historically in peatlands may be released as a result of degradation, such as drainage, excavation, or fertiliza- tion.