Wise use of wetlands involves maintenance of their ecological character, as a basis not only for nature conservation, but for sustainable development. If harvesting of wetland plants and animals respects the annual production rates and regenerative capacity of each species, benefits of wetland productivity can be enjoyed without destroying these important habitats. Where possible, properly managed, natural wetland agriculture can yield substantial benefits.
The Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar Convention (1971) is one of the global instruments promoting sustainable development of our natural resources through its wise use principle. The convention defines wise use as "sustainable utilisation for the benefit of mankind in a way compatible with the maintenance of the natural properties of the ecosystem."
Wetlands are regulators of water flow and water quality. When water moves from the wetland into an underground aquifer, water is filtered and cleansed for human consumption. When the groundwater table raises to the surface, it discharges in another wetland water with more stable biological communities. By storing rain and releasing runoff evenly, wetlands can diminish the adverse impact of floods downstream.
The Ramsar Convention recognises human-made wetlands such as shrimp and fish ponds, reservoirs, gravel pits and sewage ponds, and promotes those activities which will lead to the sustainable wise use of water-dominated ecosystems, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, that are not deep marine waters.