Skip to main content

The Second Warning to Humanity – Providing a Context for Wetland Management and Policy


The Second Warning to Humanity provides a clarion call for wetland researchers and practitioners given the loss and degradation of wetlands, the declining availability of fresh water, and the likely consequences of climate change. A coordinated response and approach to policies has the potential to prevent further degradation and support resilient wetlands that can provide a range of ecosystem services, including buffering wetlands from climate impacts, and avoiding major climate amplification from temperature-induced release of additional carbon dioxide and methane while addressing the causes and consequences of global climate change. The Warning to Humanity also provides an opportunity for organisations such as the Society of Wetland Scientists to raise the profile of wetlands and to initiate a discussion on how to respond and change direction from the destructive development trajectory that led to wetland loss and degradation. It also provides a signal for a reappraisal of the effectiveness of the implementation of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands as an international mechanism for ensuring the sustainability of wetlands.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  • Alexander S, McInnes R (2012) The benefits of wetland restoration. Ramsar scientific and technical briefing note no. 4. Ramsar Convention Secretariat, Gland, Switzerland

  • Bates BC, Kundzewicz ZW, Wu S, Palutikof JP (eds) (2008) Climate change and water, technical paper of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. IPCC Secretariat, Geneva

    Google Scholar 

  • Davidson NC (2014) How much wetland has the world lost? Long-term and recent trends in global wetland area. Marine and Freshwater Research 65:934–941

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Davidson NC (2018) Ramsar convention on wetlands: scope and implementation. In: Finlayson CM, Everard M, Irvine K, McInnes RJ, Middleton BA, van Dam AA, Davidson NC (eds) The wetland book I: structure and function, management and methods. Springer Publishers, Dordrecht In press

    Google Scholar 

  • De Groot RS, Stuip MAM, Finlayson CM, Davidson N (2006) Valuing wetlands: guidance for valuing the benefits derived from wetland ecosystem services, Ramsar technical report no. 3/CBD technical series no. 27. Ramsar Convention Secretariat, Gland, Switzerland & Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Montreal, Canada

  • Dixon M, Loh JR, Davidson NC, Beltrame C, Freeman R, Walpole M (2016) Tracking global change in ecosystem area: the wetland extent trends index. Biological Conservation 193:27–35

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Finlayson CM (2012) Forty years of wetland conservation and wise use. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 22:139–143

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Finlayson CM, Gitay H, Bellio MG, van Dam RA, Taylor I (2006) Climate variability and change and other pressures on wetlands and waterbirds – impacts and adaptation. In: Boere G, Gailbraith C, Stroud D (eds) Water birds around the world. Scottish Natural Heritage, Edinburgh, UK, pp 88–89

    Google Scholar 

  • Finlayson CM, Davidson N, Pritchard D, Milton GR, MacKay H (2011) The Ramsar convention and ecosystem-based approaches to the wise use and sustainable development of wetlands. Journal of International Wildlife Law & Policy 14:176–198

    Google Scholar 

  • Finlayson CM, Moomaw WR, Davies GT (2017a) The second warning to humanity and wetlands. Wetland Science & Practice 2017:118–121

    Google Scholar 

  • Finlayson CM, Capon SJ, Schallenberg M, Saintilan N, Edyvane K, Bino G (2017b) Adapting policy and management for the conservation of important wetlands under a changing climate. Marine and Freshwater Research 68:1803–1815

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gardner RC, Barchiesi S, Beltrame C, Finlayson, CM, Galewski T, Harrison I, Paganini M, Perennou C, Pritchard DE, Rosenqvist A, Walpole M (2015) State of the world’s wetlands and their services to people: a compilation of recent analyses. Ramsar Convention Secretariat, Ramsar scientific and technical briefing note no. 7, Gland, Switzerland

  • Gitay H, Suarez A, Watson R, Ansimov O, Chapin FS, Victor Cruz R, Finlayson M et al (2002) Climate change and biodiversity. IPCC technical paper V, intergovernmental panel on climate change, Geneva, Switzerland, 77 p

  • Gitay H, Finlayson CM, Davidson NC (2011) A framework for assessing the vulnerability of wetlands to climate change. Ramsar technical report no. 5/CBD technical series no. 57. Ramsar Convention Secretariat, Gland, Switzerland & Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Montreal, Canada

  • Horwitz P, Finlayson CM, Weinstein P (2012) Healthy wetlands, healthy people. A review of wetlands and human health interactions. Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and the World Health Organisation. Ramsar technical report no 6.

  • Junk WJ, An S, Finlayson CM, Gopal B, Květ J, Mitchell SA, Mitsch WJ, Robarts RD (2013) Current state of knowledge regarding the world’s wetlands and their future under global climate change: a synthesis. Aquatic Sciences 75:151–167.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Matthews GVT (1993) The Ramsar convention on wetlands: its history and development. Ramsar Convention Bureau, Gland

    Google Scholar 

  • Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005) Ecosystems and human well-being: wetlands and water synthesis. World Resources Institute, Washington, DC.

  • Moomaw WR, Chmura GL, Davies GT, Finlayson CM, Middleton BA, Perry JE, Roulet N, Sutton-Grier AE (2018) The relationship between wetlands and a changing climate. Wetlands 38:183-205.

  • Ripple WJ, Wolf C, Newsome TM, Galetti M, Alamgir M, Crist E, Mahmoud MI, Laurance WF, 15,364 scientist signatories from 184 countries (2017) World scientists’ warning to humanity: a second notice. BioScience.

  • Ripple WJ, Wolf C, Galetti M, Newsome TM, Green TL, Alamgir M, Crist E, Mahmoud MI, Laurance WF (2018) The role of scientists’ warning in shifting policy from growth to conservation economy. BioScience.

  • Union of Concerned Scientists (1992) World scientists’ warning to humanity.

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to C. M. Finlayson.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Finlayson, C.M., Davies, G.T., Moomaw, W.R. et al. The Second Warning to Humanity – Providing a Context for Wetland Management and Policy. Wetlands 39, 1–5 (2019).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Climate change
  • Ramsar convention
  • Wetlands
  • Second warning to humanity