Wetlands are areas where the primary controlling factor of the ecosystem and its associated species is water. The term wetlands covers a broad range of habitats which includes lakes, ponds and rivers although traditionally the term is used to refer to areas which are covered (permanently or periodically) or saturated with water, for example marshes, bogs, swamps and floodplains.
Wetlands are one of the most diverse and productive areas on the planet. They provide not only a habitat for a wide range of animals, for example 40% of all fish species, but also provide man with huge economic benefits. Wetlands have a significant impact on the quality and quantity of water and are vital for food production. Rice, the staple diet of over half the world’s population, is a wetland plant.
However, drainage, pollution and over-exploitation of these resources mean that wetlands are one of the most threatened ecosystems on the planet. For this reason the Ramsar convention was set up in 1971 with the objective of saving the worlds wetlands.