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  • Call for Wetland Decade under the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030)

    Ramsar Cities © WWF

    Open Letter by the International Organization Partners of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

    This will have serious implications on our ability to store carbon and support broader climate adaptation.  By restoring, conserving, and wisely using our wetlands we can contribute towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

    Natural wetlands have declined across inland, coastal and marine habitats, with serious impacts on food security, fisheries and other wetland-dependent species, water provision for agriculture and domestic needs, and as natural protection from storms and floods.  The economic and biodiversity value of wetlands far outweighs many terrestrial ecosystems – and yet they are disappearing faster than any other ecosystems. They provide society with huge value. By degrading and draining our wetlands, we lose much more than what lives there, we also lose the diverse benefits they provide to society.

    The Ramsar Strategic Plan 2016–2024, adopted by the 168 Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention at their twelfth meeting in Uruguay includes targets for the restoration of wetlands, with biodiversity conservation.  Given the important role that wetlands play in local and regional climate processes, including storing greenhouse gases, they represent an essential component of strategies for adaptation to, and mitigation of, climate change. They can make a significant contribution to building the resilience of communities globally.

    Yet these systems continue to be degraded, annual rates of loss have actually accelerated in the last two decades. Since 1970, 81% of inland wetland species populations and 36% of coastal and marine species have declined.  Over the last century we have lost 70% of our natural wetland area.

    We, International Organization Partners to the Ramsar Convention, would like to remind Contracting Parties to the Convention that our role is to bring these concerns to the forefront of their activities on wetland management, protection and restoration.  We call for a specific programme on Wetland Restoration under the newly adopted UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030).

    This would help to urgently accelerate the work of countries in mobilising the Strategic Plan of the Ramsar Convention, and to act at the pace needed to deliver against the ambitious SDGs, Aichi Targets, post-2020 biodiversity framework, as well as the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.  We must reverse the decline of natural wetlands, and one key strategy to do that is to restore wetlands and their functions as a key ally for all countries to adapt to climate change impacts, and to help store carbon.

    The International Organization Partners of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands are: Birdlife International, The International Water Management Institute (IWMI), The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, Wetlands International, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), and The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).


  • A new study reveals the Amazon is losing surface water

    Juruena River, Amazonia, Brazil © Zig Koch / WWFA major new study of the Amazon has revealed an alarming trend, with the region losing as much as 350 km2 of surface freshwater every year on average. The loss is related to the construction of hydropower dams, deforestation and climate change.

    Carried out by WWF-Brazil and the Man and Environment Institute of Amazonia (Imazon) – as part of the MapBiomas Project and with the support of Google Earth Engine – this was the first time that a study of this magnitude has been carried out across the Amazon biome.

    Relying on images from Landsat satellites collected over 33 years (from 1985 to 2017), new data processing technology and dedicated research, the study provides new insights and observations relating to changes in the Amazon's water bodies.

    The results of this analysis titled Long-Term Annual Surface Water Change in the Brazilian Amazon Biome: Potential Links with Deforestation, Infrastructure Development and Climate Change were published this week in a special edition of the scientific publication Water.

    Causes and Impacts

    Bernardo Caldas, conservation analyst for WWF-Brazil's Science Program and an author of the report, explains that there is a direct correlation between the loss of water surface in the Amazon and human interventions, including the construction of hydropower and deforestation.

    Small hydropower plants, major infrastructure works, weirs, dams and fish farms all have an impact on the natural dynamics and ecological services of the river basin.

    These human interventions are most prominent in the zone known as the "deforestation arch" in the southern Amazon and the areas most affected by this loss in surface freshwater are the floodplains and lagoons that form from the ebb and flow of the water.  

    "The loss of these dynamic habitats, which are influenced by the natural pumping and flow of the water, endangers freshwater dolphins, fish, turtles and many other species that depend on these sites to breed," explained Caldas. "We are losing the breeding sites where life in the Amazon originates. As a result, the communities that depend on this biodiversity will also be affected."

    Caldas also emphasises that water does not obey state or national boundaries. Its unit is the water basin, comprising the network of rivers and the natural flow of water.

    "Strategic environmental macroplanning is required that considers not just larger structures, but also the cumulative impact of thousands of small projects that can affect the environmental services provided by a particular water basin," added Caldas. "These services include the supply of water for local populations, animal husbandry, agricultural production, livestock raising, food security, communities, tourism, and the need to ensure ecosystems have the time and space to maintain themselves."

    The unprecedented scale of the study and the complexity of the region presented a host of challenges. Indeed, the research would not have been possible until recent technological advancements in the processing of large volumes of data.

    "We use servers spread throughout the world to process an impressive volume of satellite images," said Carlos Souza, researcher at Man and Environment Institute of Amazonia (Imazon). "This would have been almost impossible just a few years ago."

    This new study could pave the way for regular annual monitoring of the region's water bodies, including rivers, lakes and floodable wetlands.

    It is also part of a series of studies being performed by WWF-Brazil to analyse the fragmentation of Amazon's rivers and the consequences for the ecosystem. Developed alongside a range of partners in the region, the purpose of this analysis is to bring together aspects of hydrology and biodiversity to gain a cross-border perspective.

    An ecologically healthy Amazon that can continue to benefit everyone through products and services from its land and aquatic ecosystems – both locally and globally – is indispensable. These studies currently being developed by WWF-Brazil and its partners are widening our understanding of this complex and fundamental natural system.

  • WWF joins global initiative to transform the rubber market

    A portrait of rubber farm owners Aung Khon, who has the proper of 12 acres in Pagari village, out side Dawei in Tanintharyi division, Myanmar. © Hkun Lat / WWF-MyanmarSingapore – WWF today became a founding member and Executive Committee member of the Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber, a multi-stakeholder platform that strives to increase the supply and uptake of sustainable natural rubber in the global marketplace.

    Unsustainable and illegal natural rubber production has emerged as a top threat to many forests of Southeast Asia and it is becoming an increasing threat in the Congo Basin. Forests in these regions often are cleared to plant rubber trees, instead of being kept intact so they can serve as habitat for elephants, tigers and other endangered species; provide livelihood opportunities to millions of people; help fight climate change by sequestering carbon; and more.

    There are 39 founding members of the Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber —12 tyre companies, 10 rubber producers, processors and traders, 3 automobile makers, 11 civil society organizations and 3 affiliate member organizations. Members of the platform will develop sustainable natural rubber standards, as well as mechanisms for—and guidance on—the implementation, monitoring and verification of sustainable natural rubber commitments from companies.

    Within the past few years, many of the world's biggest buyers and users of natural rubber—such as Michelin Group and General Motors—have worked with WWF to either create sustainable natural rubber policies or make public commitments to sourcing this kind of rubber.

    "The rubber industry is at critical juncture," says Alistair Monument, Lead, Forest Practice. "It can either avoid large-scale deforestation that we've seen from production of other commodities. Or not—which would be a huge hit to the world's most threatened forests. The platform is an excellent opportunity to work with a diverse group of people, from rubber farmers to rubber buyers, to ensure the natural rubber industry moves towards sustainability."

    Rubber is grown in Asia, Africa and South America. But Southeast Asia has become the world's epicenter of rubber production, as climate and soils for growing rubber trees are ideal there. More than 90 per cent of the world's rubber is produced in this region.

    Approximately 70 per cent of the world's natural rubber is used to create tyres and the rest is used to make a variety of products, such as shoes and surgical gloves. Global consumption of natural rubber has doubled in the last 40 years and is expected to continue to grow, in large part to keep up with the expected doubling of vehicles by 2050.

    WWF promotes sustainable natural rubber at two levels—with the companies that use rubber and the producers who grow rubber. At the company level, WWF's priority is supporting the adoption and implementation of commitments to produce, source and use sustainable natural rubber. In terms of producers, WWF has initiated projects in Myanmar, Indonesia, China, and Cambodia to demonstrate how rubber production can be done sustainably, from an environmental, economic and social standpoint. 

    At the first General Assembly of the platform, WWF was elected as a member of its Executive Committee. The 10-member committee reflects the balance of voting in the General Assembly, where rubber producers, processors, traders and smallholders; tyre makers and other rubber buyers; and civil society each represent 30 per cent of the board. Automobile makers and other rubber users represent the remaining 10 per cent. Once smallholders are adequately represented on the platform, likely by the time of the second General Assembly, they will move into their own voting category.