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Wetlands for cushioning the effects of global warming




MEDITERRANEAN. Home to exceptional biodiversity, wetland areas provide “ecological services” by controlling water levels and storing carbon. Protecting them is less budget-consuming than building dykes, and undoubtedly more sustainable.



Some prospective studies concerned with forecasting the level of global warming predict a 4.8% increase by the end of the century.
 
However, a good status in natural areas could help make the future of humanity less difficult.
 
Alongside recommendations aimed at limiting global warming, others explore the possibility of cushioning its effects. The Plan Bleu for the Mediterranean's study “Ecological services provided by wetlands in terms of adaptation to climate change” falls within this category.
 
The report produced by Diane Vaschalde for Plan Bleu and Tour du Valat raises the key issue: “It is primarily through water that climate change affects populations.”
 
She reminds us that no less than 18.5 million hectares in the Mediterranean are wetland areas; mainly swamps, deltas and lagoons which can help to reduce the impact of flooding, control  water levels and avoid tragedies.
 
The study concludes, among other things, that the preservation of wetlands that provide services for human communities requires less investment than infrastructures designed for the same services. Wetlands can purify water and maintain a fish supply better than physical infrastructures, and can also encourage eco-tourism.
 
“When dykes are submerged, water is trapped and can no longer return to where it came from. Wetlands don't have the same problem,” says Ms Vaschalde.
No less than 18.5 million hectares in the Mediterranean are wetland areas (Photo MN)
No less than 18.5 million hectares in the Mediterranean are wetland areas (Photo MN)

Only wetlands with a good ecological status can play their part

Plan Bleu and Tour du Valat have identified four ecological services provided by wetland areas which mitigate the effects of climate change: they regulate climate over the long term by storing carbon, protect against the effects of catastrophic climatic events like coastal storms, help to control flooding and, conversely, top up water levels when there is a low supply.
 
“Their role in cushioning the effects of global warming merits promotion and Plan Bleu is currently identifying territories where the study may be continued,” says Diane Vaschalde.
 
Ichkeul Lake in Tunisia and Lake Burullus in Egypt could be the first. In-depth studies which will be carried out there and elsewhere could well produce an argument that would change the view still held by some decision makers that maintaining a good natural status is costly and unnecessary.
 
But only wetlands with a good ecological status can play their part in the fight against climate change,” Diane Vaschalde points out.
 
And with good reason. Half of wetland areas in the Mediterranean have disappeared since 1900. 


Michel Neumuller, MARSEILLE


Thursday, December 5th 2013



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