[EAAFP 10th anniversary event – Conference Sketch Part I] Stressing the importance of the protection our world wetlands for biodiversity!

During the EAAFP 10th Anniversary event on 10th May 2019, we were privileged to have had three distinguished keynote speakers to present their captivating and informative speeches at the Conference on the conservation of migratory waterbirds and their habitats in the East Asian – Australasian Flyway.

Keynote speech by Dr. Li Lifeng, Coordinator of Support Programmes, Green Climate Fund (GCF)

The first Keynote speaker was Dr. Li Lifeng from the Green Climate Fund (GCF) with the title “Wetland conservation as a tool for climate change mitigation and adaptation”. The first thing he stated was that we have already lost 35% of our world wetlands. This is mainly due to misuse and mismanagement of our wetlands which exacerbate the impacts of climate change. Examples of the impact caused by misuse ad mismanagement of wetlands are canalization of rivers which can intensify flooding downstream, the clearing of coastal mangroves and mining coral reefs which expose coastlines to storm surges and wide-scale flooding, and the burning or draining of peatlands which releases large quantities of CO2. Along with improving water quality, wetlands have massive flood retention capabilities. On the other hand, maintaining ecosystem services provided by natural wetlands can help save thousands of homes and millions of dollars in flood damage. Dr. Li continued to illustrate the how human can benefit from wetlands with the example of peatlands.  Peatlands account for nearly 3% of the world land mass. These peatlands sequester vast amounts of CO2 and could be one of the biggest tools to fight climate change. At the end of his speech, Dr. Li highlighted the large role the GCF plays in the battle against climate change by supporting various project in the world.

Keynote speaker Dr. Li Lifeng from the Green Climate Fund (GCF) (Photo© EAAFP Secretariat)

Keynote speech by Ms. Martha Rojas-Urrego, Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands

Our second keynote speaker was Ms. Martha Rojas-Urrego, Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, as one of EAAFP official Partners (EAAFP is a Ramsar Regional Initiative). Ms. Rojas-Urrego began her presentation by showing news headlines of natural disaster related to climate change. This really struck a chord with the audience since it showed the prevalence of these disasters and the scale of the destruction caused by them. Ms. Rojas-Urrego continued to illustrate the importance of wetlands for protecting the shore from disaster risk. As an intergovernmental treaty for the protection and wise use of wetlands, established in 1970, Ramsar Convention has designated over 2,200 wetlands of international importance. Ms. Rojas-Urrego then highlighted the fact that over 40% of migratory species reside in wetlands, and thus it is important to conserve these species by protecting the wetlands. Another example of the enormous role of peatlands, as a type of wetlands, in the process of carbon sequestration, for peatlands can sequester around 30% more CO2 than all the forests in the world. Also, another ecosystem service provided by wetlands is natural water purification, which crucially important because globally, 80% of wastewater goes to wetlands. In addition, over 1 million people in the world depend on wetlands for their livelihoods. With increasing demand, it is almost inconceivable to the fact that we are losing our wetlands 3 times faster than our forest. In Ms. Rojas-Urrego closed her speech by emphasizing the need to put wetlands conservation as the focus of development.

keynote speaker Ms. Martha Rojas-Urrego, Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (Photo© EAAFP Secretariat)

Keynote speech by Mr. Martin Spray, Chief Executive of the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT)

Our third keynote speaker was Mr. Martin Spray, Chief Executive of the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), one of EAAFP official Partners. His presentation topic was “Harmonization of the conservation of wetlands and waterbirds and people in urban cities”. While Mr. Spray explained the history of the WWT, he emphasized the need and importance of educating our youth about the benefits of our wetlands and how and why we should protect them. Mr. Spray also pointed out that one of the biggest problems among our communities was the lack of knowledge of wetlands and its importance.  Mr. Spray Then gave an example of Suncheon Bay in the Republic of Korea to illustrate the harmonious coexistence of wetland and urban development, for the government set up zonation to restrict development and enhance wetland restoration in the early 1990s. Mr. Spray gave another example in London, the United Kingdom, about how 47-hectare man-made reservoirs were turned to more nature-friendly London Wetland Centre, close the highly urbanized city. Mr. Spray ended his presentation with the reiteration of the importance of awareness raising and educating our communities on the great importance of wetlands.

Keynote speaker Mr. Martin Spray, Chief Executive of the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) (Photo© EAAFP Secretariat)

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