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Arctic Wetlands workshop on resilience and management

The Arctic Council Working Group on the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) will host an Arctic wetlands workshop in Stockholm on 7 to 8 March 2019. The project “Resilience and Management of Arctic Wetlands” is an initiative led by Sweden.

The project is guided by an international Steering Committee comprising representatives from the Arctic States and indigenous organisations. Funding is provided by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency and the Swedish Ministry of the Environment and Energy. The Arctic Wetlands project is composed of three phases and uses a social-ecological systems perspective that approaches humans in nature as interacting elements in a single system.

What is the aim of the project?

This project aims to strengthen the engagement on the roles and functions of wetlands as a resource to support sustainable development and resilience in the Arctic. The overall project goal is to use insights from scientific analysis to produce recommendations to support policy development and to further develop management strategies to conserve biodiversity and ecosystem services that wetlands provide.

What challenges do wetlands in the Arctic face?

Wetland areas have often been considered wastelands – areas thought largely useless, even hazardous, due to their waterlogged or water-covered condition through significant periods of the year. This widespread misunderstanding has led to wetlands being drained, landfilled and even paved over, depriving both people and nature of wetlands’ many critically important ecosystem functions and benefits. Furthermore, Arctic wetlands are directly related to climate change, but its effects on them are still little understood.

How can the management of wetlands contribute to healthy Arctic ecosystems?

Effective management of Arctic wetlands, including restoration and conservation, holds enormous potential to contribute significantly to climate adaptation and mitigation, protecting biodiversity and producing other benefits for both Arctic and non-Arctic peoples and society. Moreover, Arctic wetlands are globally important, through their role as bird habitats and migration pathways, as well as through their linkages with climate regulation and other global ecosystem functions.

Which ecosystem functions do wetlands provide?

Almost half of the world’s wetlands are located in the Arctic where they make up as much as 60% of all Arctic ecosystems and include a complex mix of peatlands, shallow open waters, wet tundra’s and seashore areas. These areas provide a variety of crucial ecosystem functions and serve as foraging and breeding habitats for sensitive wildlife, especially for migratory birds and numerous fish species. Wetlands play a vital role in supporting the livelihoods and traditional lifestyles of indigenous people through their use for herding, harvesting food such as berries, and extracting raw materials for a diverse range of products. However, these crucial ecosystems are changing at a perilously fast pace, with Arctic wetlands becoming drier due to climate-change driven permafrost degradation and growing pressures from increased human presence. As wetlands store large amounts of carbon in frozen peat and soil, climate change induced permafrost thaw is likely to increase greenhouse gas emissions from peatlands.