Maristanis. © MedSea.

Aerial view of the Gediz Delta. © Unknown.

Ulcinj Salina. © CZIP

Worker carrying pan full of salt. © Castro Marim, Emilia Paula Silva.

Tunisia. © WWF NA

Don’t let Coastal Wetlands be wiped off the map

Over 50% of the Mediterranean population live in coastal areas and yet over the last 100 years we’ve lost more than half of our Coastal Wetlands due to unsustainable development tourism and climate change.

During the last 40 years our consumption of natural resources has tripled. Without changing our approach to how we manage development in Coastal Wetland areas, these natural wonders will be wiped off the map. Unsustainable development is not progress; it is as damaging to human life as it is to nature.

It’s time for each of us to see Coastal Wetlands for the rich natural resource they are and consciously put them back on our maps of responsibility, before they are lost forever. We must not let them be forgotten; the ecosystems in our wetlands are the pulse of life on Earth.

What are Coastal Wetlands?

Wetlands include diverse ecosystems like marshes, deltas, lakes, ponds, rivers, as well as lagoons, coral reefs and coasts. Wetlands are land areas that are flooded with water either all the time, or seasonally. Coastal Wetlands are wetlands along the coast, which are influenced by fluctuating water levels – such as rocky shores, coastal lagoons – and provide a habitat for a vast array of organisms, including many endangered species.

All of these waters are included in Coastal Wetlands:

Where land meets water

Wetlands are where life flourishes. It’s no surprise that over 50% of the Mediterranean population live in coastal areas, when you consider that wetlands occupy the life giving space where land meets water.

#LifeBeginsInWetlands

Species travel the journey of a lifetime to reproduce in wetlands and millions of people depend on them for their livelihoods. Without Wetlands we would have no natural barrier against storms, tsunamis and hurricanes and no natural filtering system for clean water.

Protecting habitats and homes against flooding and storms

Coastal Wetlands are our natural frontline defences against storms and tidal waves. They slow down the speed of the wind. The roots of the plants bind the land together like sponges reducing both the height and force of flood waters.

With sea levels rising due to climate change we need Coastal Wetlands to stay in-tact and not be trapped between the sea on one side and over-developed and drained land on the other. We’re seeing shallow wetlands being swamped and some species of trees being submerged and drowned under water. Yet at the same time, other Coastal wetlands are being destroyed through drought.

It would be more cost effective to restore the natural shoreline protection afforded by Coastal Wetlands than to purely focus on only maintaining and upgrading existing engineered defences. Our natural systems were created to support life. If we preserved our wetlands we’d save both the money being spent and improve our biodiversity – it’s a win/win for everyone.

Purifying our water and protecting us from pollution

We understand why Coastal Wetlands are so attractive to developers. The rich quality of the land is what makes it fertile for agriculture and plentiful for urbanisation but without these natural ecosystems we leave ourselves vulnerable.  With the global population set to increase to nine billion by 2050, increasing pressure on water resources and the threats posed by climate change, the need to maximise our sources of clean water has never been more urgent.

Hundreds of thousands of hectares of wetlands have been drained for agriculture. When land is turned over to farming the drainage and run-off from fertilized crops introduces high concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorous nutrients into the water, that’s why toxic pollutants such as pesticides are likely to be one of the most serious threats to biological diversity and human well-being during our lifetime. Coastal Wetlands lock up pollutants in their sediments, soil and vegetation cleansing our water. They store and purify water and replenish underground water sources. They literally clean up our water so we can drink, wash and cook.

The way we manage water has a huge impact on all our lives. When surface or groundwater is removed through changing the flow of the water from its usual course and diverted through dams, dykes and canals it can detrimentally affect existing ecosystems. Water has become over-abstracted due to the demand from agriculture and urban development.

We need to use smart agriculture and environmental measures. Sustainable irrigation will reduce water consumption in farming and tourism and will reduce pollution. To protect ourselves and our habitats we should introduce policies that propose the creation of buffer zones in the areas that affect water supplies, where only organic agricultural practices, as well as sustainable agricultural practices will be allowed. We need to support countries who choose not to build dams in the interest of conservation by compensating them. We must grant Coastal Wetlands clear and effective legal protection.

Home to species found nowhere else on Earth

When you step into the wilderness of Coastal Wetlands you’ll discover its home to a vast array of plants and wildlife.  A breeding ground for fish, invertebrates and water birds which often occur in huge numbers.

Sadly, overfishing, illegal poaching and unsustainable hunting practises endanger our wildlife, as well as the invasion of alien species upsetting the natural balance of the native flora and fauna of Coastal Wetland ecosystems. We need to preserve these precious spaces of the natural world.

If we called for better enforcement of the laws and rules against hunting and overfishing, actively monitored sites against poaching, and invested more in restoring these habitats we’d be keeping them on the map for future generations.

Providing a living for millions of people

It is estimated that 660 million people depend on wetlands for their livelihood and that 70 Billion dollars-worth of goods and services are at stake if wetlands aren’t preserved. Coastal Wetlands are the source of countless products. Two-thirds of the fish we eat are dependent on Coastal Wetlands during their life cycle. Wetlands produce is harvested, bought, sold and bartered all over the world, from fish, to building materials, to medicines. An estimated 20,000 medicinal plant species are currently in use. When wetlands are lost it is the local population who bears the greatest cost but we all lose.

Tourism is both a challenge and a benefit to life in Coastal Wetlands. Tourists can generate income and benefit the local economy. Sustainable management and eco-tourism can benefit both nature and local economies. But unsustainable tourism and damaging developments cause loss, noise, destruction and litter.

It doesn’t have to be like this. Coastal Wetlands offer world class experiences of culture and heritage passed down through the centuries. Some Coastal Wetlands are World Heritage sites. Conservation conscious visitors will experience a vast array of agricultural and fishing practices, salt harvesting techniques and traditional and artisanal crafts that don’t exist anywhere else.

Coastal Wetlands can be managed to the benefit of people and nature. It is very important to involve local communities and stress how crucial it is to support environmentally responsible tourism. When environmentally conscious visitors respect the natural habitats they visit they contribute to the conservation of a great number of traditional cultural practices and boost local economies. We want to see Coastal Wetlands not just survive but thrive.

We want Wetlands not Wastelands

Coastal Wetlands are a vital economic and environmental resource for us all and yet we’re losing vast amounts of these natural resources at a rate of knots. Wetland habitats are among the most heavily impacted and degraded of all ecological systems. This is directly caused by human interference putting one of the most important elements for life on Earth as great risk. (But this means humans can change this – together we can turn the tide!)

We want Wetlands not Wastelands

Coastal Wetlands are a vital economic and environmental resource for us all and yet we’re losing vast amounts of these natural resources at a rate of knots. Wetland habitats are among the most heavily impacted and degraded of all ecological systems. This is directly caused by human interference putting one of the most important elements for life on Earth as great risk. (But this means humans can change this – together we can turn the tide!)

Protecting habitats and homes against flooding and storms

Coastal Wetlands are our natural frontline defences against storms and tidal waves. They slow down the speed of the wind. The roots of the plants bind the land together like sponges reducing both the height and force of flood waters.

With sea levels rising due to climate change we need Coastal Wetlands to stay in-tact and not be trapped between the sea on one side and over-developed and drained land on the other. We’re seeing shallow wetlands being swamped and some species of trees being submerged and drowned under water. Yet at the same time, other Coastal wetlands are being destroyed through drought.

It would be more cost effective to restore the natural shoreline protection afforded by Coastal Wetlands than to purely focus on only maintaining and upgrading existing engineered defences. Our natural systems were created to support life. If we preserved our wetlands we’d save both the money being spent and improve our biodiversity – it’s a win/win for everyone.

Purifying our water and protecting us from pollution

We understand why Coastal Wetlands are so attractive to developers. The rich quality of the land is what makes it fertile for agriculture and plentiful for urbanisation but without these natural ecosystems we leave ourselves vulnerable.  With the global population set to increase to nine billion by 2050, increasing pressure on water resources and the threats posed by climate change, the need to maximise our sources of clean water has never been more urgent.

Hundreds of thousands of hectares of wetlands have been drained for agriculture. When land is turned over to farming the drainage and run-off from fertilized crops introduces high concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorous nutrients into the water, that’s why toxic pollutants such as pesticides are likely to be one of the most serious threats to biological diversity and human well-being during our lifetime. Coastal Wetlands lock up pollutants in their sediments, soil and vegetation cleansing our water. They store and purify water and replenish underground water sources. They literally clean up our water so we can drink, wash and cook.

The way we manage water has a huge impact on all our lives. When surface or groundwater is removed through changing the flow of the water from its usual course and diverted through dams, dykes and canals it can detrimentally affect existing ecosystems. Water has become over-abstracted due to the demand from agriculture and urban development.

We need to use smart agriculture and environmental measures. Sustainable irrigation will reduce water consumption in farming and tourism and will reduce pollution. To protect ourselves and our habitats we should introduce policies that propose the creation of buffer zones in the areas that affect water supplies, where only organic agricultural practices, as well as sustainable agricultural practices will be allowed. We need to support countries who choose not to build dams in the interest of conservation by compensating them. We must grant Coastal Wetlands clear and effective legal protection.

Home to species found nowhere else on Earth

When you step into the wilderness of Coastal Wetlands you’ll discover its home to a vast array of plants and wildlife.  A breeding ground for fish, invertebrates and water birds which often occur in huge numbers.

Sadly, overfishing, illegal poaching and unsustainable hunting practises endanger our wildlife, as well as the invasion of alien species upsetting the natural balance of the native flora and fauna of Coastal Wetland ecosystems. We need to preserve these precious spaces of the natural world.

If we called for better enforcement of the laws and rules against hunting and overfishing, actively monitored sites against poaching, and invested more in restoring these habitats we’d be keeping them on the map for future generations.

Providing a living for millions of people

It is estimated that 660 million people depend on wetlands for their livelihood and that 70 Billion dollars-worth of goods and services are at stake if wetlands aren’t preserved. Coastal Wetlands are the source of countless products. Two-thirds of the fish we eat are dependent on Coastal Wetlands during their life cycle. Wetlands produce is harvested, bought, sold and bartered all over the world, from fish, to building materials, to medicines. An estimated 20,000 medicinal plant species are currently in use. When wetlands are lost it is the local population who bears the greatest cost but we all lose.

Tourism is both a challenge and a benefit to life in Coastal Wetlands. Tourists can generate income and benefit the local economy. Sustainable management and eco-tourism can benefit both nature and local economies. But unsustainable tourism and damaging developments cause loss, noise, destruction and litter.

It doesn’t have to be like this. Coastal Wetlands offer world class experiences of culture and heritage passed down through the centuries. Some Coastal Wetlands are World Heritage sites. Conservation conscious visitors will experience a vast array of agricultural and fishing practices, salt harvesting techniques and traditional and artisanal crafts that don’t exist anywhere else.

Coastal Wetlands can be managed to the benefit of people and nature. It is very important to involve local communities and stress how crucial it is to support environmentally responsible tourism. When environmentally conscious visitors respect the natural habitats they visit they contribute to the conservation of a great number of traditional cultural practices and boost local economies. We want to see Coastal Wetlands not just survive but thrive.

Some Coastal Wetlands to Put on Your Map

Eco-Tourists Come To Tunisia

Experience the rich history of Ghar El Melh’s Coastal Wetlands National Centre.

Why do Flamingos go Pink During the Mating Season?

Be an eco-tourist and discover rare migratory water birds nesting in their natural habitat in Sardinia…but please do it quietly…Sssh.

Making Everyone a Winner

Proud of local business Annual Awards Winner and Grantees in Buna Bojana Delta.

Ghar El Melh Wetlands National Centre in Tunisia

Located in the city of Ghar El Melh, the lagoon is one of Tunisia’s forty one Ramsar wetlands. There is an Eco-Museum that was built by local workers and features products made by local artisans. It highlights the importance of Coastal Wetlands for humans and biodiversity, and showcases the history of the region. In this museum you can visit the flying station to find out how to identify water birds. Ghar el Melh has submitted its application to be awarded with the Ramsar City Accreditation during the upcoming Ramsar Conference of Parties.

The Gulf of Oristano in Sardinia, Italy

Coastal Wetlands provide an important habitat for many birds, and are a breeding ground for gulls and colonies of pink flamingos. Home to several rare aquatic bird species, such as the red-crested pochard, purple heron, purple swamphen, and birds of prey such as osprey and Eurasian coot, as well as to fish including sea bass, eel, mullet and caniottu (a small seabream).

Visit maristanis.org

Buna Bojana Delta, Albania and Montenegro

Nestling between the Dinaric Alps and the Adriatic in the southwest section of the Balkan Green Belt lies the largest remaining wetland on the Adriatic Flyway. Known in Albanian as Buna and in Montenegrin as Bojana these waters form a unique natural corridor. They provide a safe haven for Cormorants, Pygmy Cormorants, Spoonbills and many varieties of Heron to establish stable colonies. They find ample forage in the lagoons of the Bojana-Buna Delta and in the salt flats of Ulcinj. All the wetlands in the Bojana-Buna Delta have become important resting places for many other migratory birds flying across the Adriatic and then over Sicily on to North Africa.

Some Coastal Wetlands to Put on Your Map

Eco-Tourists Come To Tunisia

Experience the rich history of Ghar El Melh’s Coastal Wetlands National Centre.

Ghar El Melh Wetlands National Centre in Tunisia

Located in the city of Ghar El Melh, the lagoon is one of Tunisia’s forty one Ramsar wetlands. There is an Eco-Museum that was built by local workers and features products made by local artisans. It highlights the importance of Coastal Wetlands for humans and biodiversity, and showcases the history of the region. In this museum you can visit the flying station to find out how to identify water birds. Ghar el Melh has submitted its application to be awarded with the Ramsar City Accreditation during the upcoming Ramsar Conference of Parties.

Why do Flamingos go Pink During the Mating Season?

Be an eco-tourist and discover rare migratory water birds nesting in their natural habitat in Sardinia…but please do it quietly…Sssh.

The Gulf of Oristano in Sardinia, Italy

Coastal Wetlands provide an important habitat for many birds, and are a breeding ground for gulls and colonies of pink flamingos. Home to several rare aquatic bird species, such as the red-crested pochard, purple heron, purple swamphen, and birds of prey such as osprey and Eurasian coot, as well as to fish including sea bass, eel, mullet and caniottu (a small seabream).

Visit maristanis.org

Making Everyone a Winner

Proud of local business Annual Awards Winner and Grantees in Buna Bojana Delta.

Buna Bojana Delta, Albania and Montenegro

Nestling between the Dinaric Alps and the Adriatic in the southwest section of the Balkan Green Belt lies the largest remaining wetland on the Adriatic Flyway. Known in Albanian as Buna and in Montenegrin as Bojana these waters form a unique natural corridor. They provide a safe haven for Cormorants, Pygmy Cormorants, Spoonbills and many varieties of Heron to establish stable colonies. They find ample forage in the lagoons of the Bojana-Buna Delta and in the salt flats of Ulcinj. All the wetlands in the Bojana-Buna Delta have become important resting places for many other migratory birds flying across the Adriatic and then over Sicily on to North Africa.

Off Your Map is a collaboration between the following partners, with the funding and support of the MAVA Foundation.

Together we can turn the tide for Mediterranean Coastal Wetlands. Sign up to our mailing list to join in the campaign, or for questions contact offyourmap@gmail.com.

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