Integrating wetlands biodiversity conservation into river basin management

Small, piecemeal losses of wetlands and other aquatic habitats accumulate to significant levels of environmental damage in many areas. One way to better protect these valuable resources is to integrate wetlands and similar habitats into geographic-based planning programmes, including the watershed approach and other planning programmes that address coastal resources, habitat, floodplains and river corridors, and management of water resources and public lands.

Planning processes should include an inventory of wetlands and other aquatic sites that remove pollutants, reduce flood damages and/or supply food and shelter for fish and wildlife. Environmental, economic, and quality-of-life values of these areas should be assessed, their location and areal extent determined, historic losses estimated, adverse consequences of past losses evaluated, and priorities for conservation and restoration ranked.

Wetlands are areas where the flow of water, the cycling of nutrients, and the energy of the sun produce specially adapted communities of plants and animals. Many plants and animals depend upon wetlands, which are essential for maintaining biodiversity. Wetland species are the base of commercial and recreational enterprises that provide jobs and income important to many communities. Commercial fish and shellfish are dependent on coastal bays and their wetlands. Trees that grow in forested swamps are harvested for timber, and ducks and geese in all flyways use wetlands for feeding, nesting, and resting during migration.
The [Amur Programme] of the Socio-Ecological Union (SEU) of Russia was founded in 1991 to demonstrate that the Amur River basin could be developed in a way that benefits people, economy and wildlife. This vision included establishment of network of core protected areas, development of environmentally sound and sustainable economic activities, public participation in land use planning for the region, support of conservation organizations and targeted education programmes. The Programme has initiated a number of projects on biological diversity conservation, established a series of new protected territories, designated a series of Ramsar sites, and generally promoted environmental education, sustainable development, international cooperation in migratory bird protection, and stimulated the local NGO movement.

The biodiversity and natural heritage values of the Danube basin have become significantly degraded through pollution, canalization, dam construction, the draining of wetlands and the loss of natural dynamics. In the early 1980s the governments of the Danube region recognized some of these problems. In 1985 the [Bucharest Declaration on Water Management of the Danube] was signed in which the countries agreed to protect the Danube and its tributaries from pollution, and in 1991 the [Environment Programme for the Danube River Basin] was agreed. The [Green Danube Programme] was developed by WWF in 1992 as a further contribution to resolving the environmental problems in the Danube basin. Since 1992, the [Danube Delta Biodiversity Project] has been launched and nine countries have agreed the [Convention on Cooperation for the Protection and Sustainable Use of the Danube River]. The Programme's objectives are: (1) to halt the increasing destruction of the Danube and to ensure the protection of the most valuable remaining floodplain areas; (2) to conserve the basin's biodiversity; (3) to reduce water pollution; (4) to secure the safe supply of drinking water for 20 million people; and (5) to ensure the protection and sustainable management of the ancient floodplain forests. The Programme is composed of five major projects which are intended to serve as examples of restoration of wetland habitat, namely the Isar estuary, the central Danube multilateral park, the Gemenc-Beda protected areas, the Bulgarian islands and the Danube Delta. The projects are carried out in cooperation with governments, WWF national and regional offices and local partner organizations.

Rivers and lakes
Land and coastal forms
Land type/use
Type Classification:
G: Very Specific strategies