Joint declaration of participants of the conference “Pact for Wetlands”

„Pakt dla Mokradeł”

As every year, February 2 was celebrated as World Wetlands Day. The day is an opportunity to highlight the role played by wetland ecosystems, both from a natural and economic perspective. This year, the theme of World Wetlands Day was the need to restore wetlands.

“Pact for Wetlands” – joint action for their protection.

On the occasion of World Wetlands Day, a Conference on Wetlands Protection was organized from February 5 to 7, which we wrote about in the previous issue of “Water Issues”. During the meeting, 71 papers were delivered, 30 poster presentations were given, and many panel and workshop discussions were held. Conference participants adopted, in the form of a declaration, the following statement:

“Wetland ecosystems, such as marshes, peatlands, rivers, lakes, are a key element of nature, and their protection and restoration are essential to stop the global climate-ecological crisis, as well as to ensure a secure future for people and sustainable access to environmental resources.

The wetlands occupied approx. 18% of Poland’s land area, but almost all of them, as a result of degradation, have ceased to fulfill their former ecosystem functions. As a result of land reclamation, about 85% of peatlands have lost the characteristics of marsh ecosystems, turning from carbon sinks into sources of carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere. About 80% of the rivers have, as a result of regulation and inflow of pollution, significantly deteriorated ecological status, which has impaired their self-purification capacity and destroyed habitat diversity. Also, the ecological status or potential of more than 80% of the lakes is worse than good. Species associated with wetlands dominate the Polish Red Books of flora and fauna, being among the fastest disappearing.

Although past wetland restoration projects conducted in Poland and abroad have provided the necessary scientific and technical expertise, the spatial scale and number of completed projects are disproportionately small compared to the needs. At the same time, the protection and restoration of wetlands are increasingly cited by various circles as necessary actions to counter droughts and floods, protect water quality, reduce the effects of climate change, and improve national defense. Also, new legal acts of the European Union – the “Biodiversity Strategy” and the “Nature Restoration Law” – require us to immediately increase the effectiveness of wetland protection and restoration. To implement these plans, today we need the cooperation of different communities across all divides.

As participants in the “Pact for Wetlands” conference, we express the need and willingness to work together for:

  • Recognize the protection and restoration of wetlands as a key action for climate change adaptation and mitigation and halting the extinction of species, and implement adequate measures in various sectors of State policy.
  • Cooperation of scientists from different fields and scientific disciplines in planning and implementing the protection and restoration of wetlands, as well as establishing a system for monitoring their ecological status and assessing ecosystem services.
  • Cooperation between public administration institutions and scientists and conservation practitioners to improve existing and develop new effective legal, administrative and financial instruments to support wetland nature.
  • Create a legal and organizational framework to support the involvement of the private sector in wetland restoration and, in particular, the restoration of degraded peatlands as an offset to greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Develop new principles for managing peat soils in the agricultural and forestry sectors, such as paludiculture, to minimize greenhouse gas emissions and restore lost ecosystem services such as water retention and purification.
  • Restrictions on the extraction and use of peat in the horticultural industry and other sectors.
  • Revise the existing approach to formal wetland protection in protected areas to make it more effective and prevent erroneous administrative decisions.
  • Covering well-preserved wetlands with effective protection and developing and implementing a national plan for natural restoration of degraded wetlands to restore nature and restore lost ecosystem services, including strategic functions for national defense.
  • Effective and widespread education of the public about the role of wetlands in nature and our lives, as well as the need for and methods of restoring them.
  • Strengthen international cooperation among Polish scientists, practitioners and decision-makers in the field of wetland protection and restoration, particularly in the protection of transboundary wetlands, such as the Belarusian-Ukrainian-Polish Polesia region.”

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