In coming decades the climate crisis will cause a rise in the frequency of catastrophic natural events. For the nearly 180 million people living in the Mediterranean coastal area, from Barcelona to Cairo, this means surviving an increasing number of extreme storms and flooding, and counter-intuitively longer-lasting droughts and less overall rainfall. However, nature’s own coastal ecosystems, if protected and enhanced, offer a cost-effective and resilient way to help us reducing the effects of these increasingly devastating climate crisis consequences.
Coastal wetlands have provided humanity with a wide range of benefits and life-enhancing qualities since the dawn of time. Indeed, they have been witness and mid-wife to the birth of many a civilisation. In the light of the current climate crisis we face with its biblical proportions, the unheralded benefits of coastal wetlands are more than ever critical as we struggle to adapt. Lagoons and floodplains, among others, are natural sponges. They act as buffers against flooding, absorbing water excess from sea-level rise or from downpours and river floods, enabling the water to spread out safely over wider areas. By doing so, the speed and depth of the encroaching water is reduced to safer levels, limiting its negative impact on ecosystems and human infrastructures. Those very same wetlands act as barriers, helping to shelter and protect us from the ever-increasingly frequent storms and higher tides. They also provide water during times of drought, improving its availability for people and agriculture. At a local scale, wetlands help regulate and reduce temperature by evaporation.
Saltmarshes and sea-grass meadows also constitute important carbon sinks, sequestrating atmospheric carbon in the ground. This is an essential natural process of healthy coastal ecosystems that helps to mitigate the main cause of global warming.
But while flourishing coastal wetlands help us adapt and defend ourselves against these increasingly negative climate effects, they are also among the climate crisis’ first victims. As weather patterns are changing, water supply to coastal wetlands is altered, affecting salinity, supply of nutrients and water quality. This destroys some of the most important benefits they provide. Rising sea-levels will be the last nail in the coffin of wetlands, increasingly devastated by intensive exploitation and urbanisation. Poorly managed coastal settlements will find themselves inexorably at the mercy of storms and flooding.
In future posts we will further explore these topics, and illustrate their real consequences, as well as our efforts to protect and enhance coastal wetlands in sites as diverse as Sardinia’s Gulf of Oristano, Tunisia’s Ghar el Melh and Montenegro’s Ulcinj Salina – and many others. Stay tuned!
Life begins in wetlands.
Coastal wetlands have provided humanity with a wide range of benefits and life-enhancing qualities since the dawn of time. But now they’re disappearing at an alarming rate.
Our stories showcase Mediterranean coastal wetlands, the people who protect them, and the challenges they face.
2021: Ora o mai più per le Zone Umide del Mediterraneo Il 2 Febbraio sarà il “World Wetlands Day”, la Giornata Internazionale delle zone umide – e maicome ora serve fare il punto su ciò che viene celebrato e perché. Questo perché il futuro dellenostre zone umide e il...
Quinel Mediterraneo abbiamo convertito e degradato le nostre zone umide per secoli e dal 1970 abbiamo perso la metà di ciò che restava. Read More
In the Mediterranean, we’ve been converting and degrading our wetlands for centuries, and since 1970 we’ve lost half of what remained. Read More
En Méditerranée, nous transformons et dégradons nos zones humides depuis des siècles, et depuis 1970, nous avons perdu la moitié de ce qu’il en restait. Read More
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Coastal wetlands are home to a fabulous diversity of species. But between land-grabbing and Climate Change, we’re losing them at an alarming rate. Read More
Since 1970, Earth Day has created a symbolic opportunity for all of us to remember how important it is to make sure we take care of the planet and its resources. The 2020 edition will focus on climate action. Climate change represents the biggest challenge to the future of humanity and the life-support systems that make our world habitable. Read More
The Ancestral Wetlands of Ghar El Melh: Feeding the Mind, Body and Soul Have you ever taken a bite from a fresh tomato grown by a traditional farmer in Tunisia’s Ghar El Melh wetlands? It’s a delight for the palate – but it’s so much more than that. Behind this scarlet fruit lies an ancestral, ... Read More
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Wetlands offer holistic contributions to addressing the planetary crises through their various intrinsic functions and attributes – what scientists, and increasingly much of the concerned public, are now calling Nature-based Solutions, or NbS in our acronym-crazed world! Read More
“In the old times fishing began in September, now we start in March. Everything has been intensively exploited for decades, and we are now paying the consequences. The rain is irregular, the reeds die and some species become extinct because of the exceeding salinity of the water”, explains Danilo, a fisherman in Oristano. “We do our best. We respect the fish while it grows, we take care of the lagoon, it’s our home, but it is a bigger problem than us, and despite the subsidies we barely survive.” Read More
Wetlands & People: A Vital Connection is a short animated video, which captures the deep rootedness of wetlands in our lives, our souls and our history – and the way in which we humans increasingly threaten them. Read More
Collared Pratincole - Glareola pratincolaRead the article in FR | AROne flew over a flamingo’s nest As Europe plots the elements of the EU Green Deal, its specifics due out in 100 days, March 2020, and the Climate COP ends in Madrid, Off Your Map reminds our leaders that wetlands play a ... Read More
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Each year on 25 September, Mediterranean countries celebrate ‘Coast Day’: this celebrates the importance of coastal areas as natural, cultural and socio-economic resources that contribute to sustainable development. Read More
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At long last, the salt pans of Ulcinj Salina have been declared a national protected area! For the past 15 years, the Center for Protection and Research of Birds of Montenegro (CZIP), partner of BirdLife, has fought tirelessly to block a controversial building development poised to destroy one of Europe’s most important migratory bird resting and breeding sites. Read More