During the past 100 years, wetlands have been converted into agricultural land – such as for palm oil in Southeast Asia, have suffered contamination from pollutants such as pesticides, have been overexploited for their fish, wood or other resources and made way for tourism of port development. Furthermore, in many regions water stress is a direct result of the loss and degradation of natural areas; especially wetlands like marshes and lakes. In a healthy state these areas are still the source of water for the majority of the world's people, vital for a range of services such as drinking water, food and transport.
Indicating the importance of wetlands to biodiversity, freshwater wetlands contain more than 40 % of the world's plant species and 12 % of all animal species; many of those are endemic. Coral reefs rival tropical rainforests in terms of biodiversity; they may contain up to 25% of all marine species. Reefs hold an estimated 4,000 species of fish and 800 species of reef-building corals. The total number of species associated with reefs may be more than a million.
Furthermore, wetland biodiversity is a significant reservoir of genes that have a considerable economic potential in the pharmaceutical industry and in the production of commercial crop plants such as rice.
Many wetlands are not only home to many animal and plant species; they also provide critical sites for the animal’s reproduction and migration. For example, many of the fish caught in the sea were born in coastal mangrove areas. Furthermore, annual migration of waterbirds – such as herons, ducks – goes from wetland to wetland. These chains of wetlands form the required resting and feeding stopover sites for millions of the world’s birds along their flyway. With wetland sites disappearing and degrading, the migratory routes of the migratory birds are in danger, and therefore many of these species.
Celebrations of International Day for Biodiversity
In Senegal, in the Saloum Delta, the Programme Regionale pour la Protection de la Zone Cotière (PRCM), and BIOMAC (West African Marine and Coastal Biodiversity Network) project will hold a celebration with high school students and other local actors to rais awareness for the protection of iconic species like the West African manatee (Trichechus senegalensis).
In Sierra Leone the PRCM focal point and government together with Conservation Society of Sierra Leone are mobilising youth for the celebration of International Biodiversity Day 2010, also on Saturday 22nd May. Next to a march through Freetown and a forum on the significance on biodiversity, a field trip to Lumbley beach will be held, where participants will clean up the polluted beach.
Wetlands International leads the Manatee Conservation project, as well as BIOMAC in the six West African countries of Mauritania, Senegal, The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau, and Guinea Chonakry.
In Kenya, Nairobi the celebration will be held with a replanting ceremony at Unon Giri with school children. The event, also on Saturday 22nd May, will feature many UNEP and GEF officials and will start in the National Museum of Kenya.
For more information:
Wetlands International Africa
Tel. 221 33 869 1681
Mobile : 221 77 5905100
Fax : 221 33 825 1292