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Wetland areas cushion the impact of climate change in the Mediterranean


Written by Christiane Navas, NICE on Monday, June 22nd 2015 à 16:50 | Read 1251 times





The role of wetlands in regulating the climate has long been forgotten in climate change adaptation strategies. However the Med-ESCWET project, tasked with addressing the vital challenge of water resource conservation, places wetlands at its very heart.


Wetland areas cushion the impact of climate change in the Mediterranean
Reports from the IPCC warn that climate change will increase the number of extreme weather events such as droughts, heat waves, floods etc in the Mediterranean. These events will turn up the pressure on water resources, with considerable consequent risks for losses, both economic and in terms of human lives.  It is therefore crucial to find solutions to adapt to, and lessen the impact of, climate change. One of these solutions could come from wetland areas (marshes, river deltas, lagoons, etc.), which are estimated to cover between 15 and 20 million hectares in the Mediterranean region, representing 1.5% of the total wetland surface area on the planet. 

This is one of the areas being explored by Plan Bleu in partnership with the Tour du Valat (Mediterranean wetland research centre) through the Med-ESCWET project, launched in 2013 and cofounded by the Mava and Prince Albert II of Monaco foundations. 

Many studies look at the impact of climate change on natural ecosystems.  However, very few highlight the ecosystems' role as a useful tool in climate change adaptation.  Yet wetlands contribute to the environment in a number of ways, including through climate regulation and they could therefore be included in national adaptation strategies,” explains Céline Dubreuil-Imbert, head of the programme at Plan Bleu. As such, the project aims to economically assess the wetlands' environmental contribution and promote solutions based on natural ecosystems, in order to equip decision-makers with evidence relevant to their assessments.  For instance, is it necessary to build a dam if open floodplains can store excess water and then release it gradually, thereby efficiently preventing water level rises? 

Choosing representative test sites

The Camargue. Photo BL
The Camargue. Photo BL
Four representative Mediterranean test sites have been chosen for a biophysical and economic assessment looking at how wetlands could contribute to climate regulation.  The studies launched in Egypt and Turkey will focus on carbon sequestration by lakeland peat bogs. Researchers in France will look more closely at the role of wetlands in protecting against coastal erosion. Finally, in Croatia the project will look at how wetlands can help to minimise high water levels.  

The studies will run from 2015 until September 2016. The results should clarify the challenges with regard to the conservation or destruction of some ecosystems in the face of developmental demands. The Mediterranean, much like the rest of the planet, has lost half of its wetland areas since 1900 due to demographic pressure and their conversion into farmland or industrial and urban areas. 
 




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