The Wetland Book pp 1025-1027 | Cite as

Food from Wetlands

  • Mark Everard
Reference work entry


The world’s diverse wetlands are vital sources of food for the global population. Adequate, good quality food is a prerequisite for healthy people, and wetlands are key contributors, supplying the global population with a broad range of wild and cultivated food sources such as fish (including shellfish); certain mammals; plants (rice, seaweeds, a range of leafy vegetables, fruits, and nuts, etc.); reptiles; amphibians; insects and other arthropods; snails, and a diversity of other organisms.

Harvesting fish resources from coastal and inland waters has been a source of sustenance and livelihood for millennia. Today one billion people, largely in developing countries, rely on fish as their main or sole source of animal protein and many more consume fish regularly. The fish we eat comes from both capture fisheries (62% in 2008) and aquaculture (38%) and both are heavily dependent on healthy coastal and inland wetlands. Achieving sustainability is a major challenge –75% of our commercially important marine stocks of fish were being overfished in 2008 and so too are many inland fish stocks; aquaculture, now the fastest-growing sector in the food production industry in the world, brings its own share of sustainability challenges through the side effects of pollution, habitat destruction (especially mangroves), escape of nonnative species, etc. While the loss or diminished availability of fish protein may be unwelcome for many of us, for most of the one billion people who are both poor and dependent on fish, failing fish harvests can have direct effects on their health through malnutrition leading to higher susceptibility to diseases.

Perhaps the most well-known wetland plant is rice, now largely a cultivated plant. Nearly 50% of the world’s population, mainly in Asia, depends on rice as a staple food item. Other wetland plants, such as seaweeds (both naturally occurring and cultivated), also play a significant role in food supply, and many local communities rely upon a number of leafy plants in wetlands as a source of vegetables in their daily diets.


Food Fish Shellfish Rice Paddy Aquaculture 


  1. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Ecosystems and human well-being: wetlands and water – synthesis. Washington, DC: World Resources Institute; 2005.Google Scholar
  2. Ramsar Commission. Wetland food. 2008. [online] Accessed 01 Aug 2014.
  3. US EPA. Wetlands and nature. n.d. [online] Accessed 01 Aug 2014.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.International Water Security NetworkUniversity of the West of EnglandBristolUK

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