, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 71-84
Date: 07 Nov 2008

Wetlands and global climate change: the role of wetland restoration in a changing world

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Abstract

Global climate change is recognized as a threat to species survival and the health of natural systems. Scientists worldwide are looking at the ecological and hydrological impacts resulting from climate change. Climate change will make future efforts to restore and manage wetlands more complex. Wetland systems are vulnerable to changes in quantity and quality of their water supply, and it is expected that climate change will have a pronounced effect on wetlands through alterations in hydrological regimes with great global variability. Wetland habitat responses to climate change and the implications for restoration will be realized differently on a regional and mega-watershed level, making it important to recognize that specific restoration and management plans will require examination by habitat. Floodplains, mangroves, seagrasses, saltmarshes, arctic wetlands, peatlands, freshwater marshes and forests are very diverse habitats, with different stressors and hence different management and restoration techniques are needed. The Sundarban (Bangladesh and India), Mekong river delta (Vietnam), and southern Ontario (Canada) are examples of major wetland complexes where the effects of climate change are evolving in different ways. Thus, successful long term restoration and management of these systems will hinge on how we choose to respond to the effects of climate change. How will we choose priorities for restoration and research? Will enough water be available to rehabilitate currently damaged, water-starved wetland ecosystems? This is a policy paper originally produced at the request of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and incorporates opinion, interpretation and scientific-based arguments.