The future of cities - urban development for sustainable transformation
Insight by Nora Holz
News publ. 01. Feb 2024
Riverine and coastal wetlands are vital ecosystems for biodiversity, human well-being, and climate resilience. Yet, they face significant threats. The latest ENCA Recommendations outline the essential steps required to safeguard the sustainability of Europe's wetlands and drive restoration efforts.
Over the past century, Europe has witnessed the loss of approximately 80% of its wetlands, with the remaining areas facing severe degradation due to human activities and climate change. Urgent action is needed to preserve existing wetland areas, protect their biodiversity, and advance restoration initiatives. Healthy floodplains and coastal wetlands play three important roles: they preserve biodiversity, they aid climate adaptation, and they deliver social and economic benefits to communities.
Floodplains, for example, serve as natural sponshes, managing water levels and mitigating climate-related risks like floods and droughts. Wetland ecosystems, including floodplain forests, river marshes, salt marshes, and seagrass meadows, can effectively store large quantities of carbon dioxide. Therefore, adopting nature-based solutions within wetlands presents a mutually beneficial outcome for nature conservation, climate resilience, and human societies.
During the 5th European Conference on Biodiversity and Climate Change in September 2023, experts from science, practice and policy-making came together to discuss necessary steps for the long-term and sustainable protection of wetlands. Key recommendations were agreed upon and submitted to the working group of ENCA (European Network of Nature Conservation Authorities), which translated them into actionable recommendations for its members and broader political decision-makers, known as the ENCA Recommendations.
These recommendations are intended to actuate the change needed for wetland protection and the implementation of restoration measures. They target decision-makers and stakeholders at the intersection of biodiversity and climate change.
The recommendations also demonstrate how political actors play a pivotal role, as they can increase funding for measures and set binding targets for restoration. The recommendations also state that, in addition to economic incentives, legal instruments such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the EU Green Deal and the EU Nature Restoration Act are needed to implement restoration measures on a binding and large scale.
Simultaneously, efforts to raise public awareness about wetlands are essential to garner societal acceptance of conservation and restoration initiatives. In addition, local knowledge should play a great role in the development of joint solutions in the regions concerned. Bridging the gap between natural science and socio-economic science provides a comprehensive overview of the benefits of restored ecosystems. Lastly, the recommendations stress the need of fostering transdisciplinary collaboration among scientists, practitioners, and policymakers to ensure the sustainable protection of wetlands in the long run.
The European Conference on Biodiversity and Climate Change, organised by ENCA and the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) in cooperation with the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), and adelphi, served as an exchange platform where the recommendations were shaped. adelphi played a key role in the conception and coordination of the conference and designed formats in which the participants discussed specific topics and debated possible solutions. The ENCA Recommendations emerged a key result of the conference.