Amy Fraenkel, Executive Secretary of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS)

27 Jan 2023

When I walked through the exhibition space during COP14 of the Convention on Wetlands last year, I was not surprised that virtually every exhibition showcasing a wetland somewhere in the world included migratory species. Wetlands are critically important for a significant number and variety of migratory species.

Millions of migratory waterbirds such as herons, spoonbills, and flamingos rely on wetlands for feeding, breeding, and resting during their annual migrations. Wetlands provide essential habitats for many terrestrial mammal species, such as jaguars, bats, and elephants, and are an important source of water for other migratory mammals such as Khulan, Goitered Gazelles and Saiga Antelopes. Many migratory species of fish, turtles as well as some dolphin species such as the Franciscana or Atlantic Humpback dolphin also depend on coastal wetlands during the whole or some part of their lifetimes.

Yet we are losing wetlands at an unprecedented rate. Thirty-five percent of the world’s wetlands have been lost in the past fifty years. Wetlands have been disappearing three times faster than forests, making them the most threatened type of ecosystem on the planet. This trend has serious implications for the survival of many migratory species. Strengthening actions around the globe to protect and restore wetlands is therefore essential for the conservation of migratory species and for achieving the objectives of the Convention for the Conservation of Migratory Species.

Healthy wetlands also provide a long list of benefits for our communities, including buffering coastal areas from storms, absorbing carbon dioxide, and acting as filtering systems for freshwater. It is good public policy to invest in wetlands.

There are many excellent examples of successful efforts to restore wetlands. One is the Abu Dhabi coastal restoration project, which was recently recognized by the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration as one of the top 10 flagship restoration projects. It involves an ambitious effort to restore coral, mangrove, and seagrass areas along the coastline of Abu Dhabi, which will directly benefit dugongs and other migratory species such as marine turtles and seabirds.

We must increase our efforts to protect, and restore wetlands all around the world, for the benefit of both people and nature, including migratory species of wild animals. I strongly support the call behind this year’s World Wetlands Day theme “It’s time for wetland restoration” and encourage countries and other actors to step up their efforts to restore wetlands.

Happy World Wetlands Day!