Wetlands, essential for human health

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Today is World Wetlands Day, a date that commemorates the signing of the Ramsar Convention in 1971, an agreement that protects wetlands of international importance. This year, under the slogan “Wetlands and human well-being“, the aim is to go beyond the relevance of these ecosystems for the conservation of biodiversity and for the services they offer, highlighting the great connection with people’s health.

Despite occupying only about 6% of the earth’s surface, wetlands play a key role in the natural environment. They provide food, raw materials, genetic resources for medicines and hydroelectric power, in addition to filtering and cleaning water, renewing subway aquifers, controlling floods and mitigating droughts. They also contribute to the promotion and protection of biodiversity, since 40% of the species live or reproduce in them.

But less well known are the multiple health, social and cultural benefits they bring to people. The connection to nature that wetlands provide contributes to our mental health, are a source of inspiration and recreational opportunities, and help us mitigate and adapt to climate change and its effects. They are also crucial economic drivers in sectors such as agriculture and fisheries, meaning that nearly one in eight people (more than 1 billion worldwide) earn their livelihoods from wetlands.

Despite their importance, 35% of the world’s wetlands have been lost since 1970, with the disappearance of these ecosystems being three times greater than that of forests. Today, one in three freshwater species and 25% of all wetland-dependent species are at risk of extinction due to the decline of these ecosystems.

At the national level, with the addition of the Maritime-Terrestrial National Park of the Atlantic Islands of Galicia to the Ramsar List, the number of sites of international importance in Spain has risen to 76, with a surface area of more than 315,000 hectares. This makes Spain the second country in the European Union in terms of the number of declared sites, behind the United Kingdom, with 174 sites. To protect these areas, in 2022 the Ministry for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge (MITECO) approved the Wetlands Strategic Plan 2030The aim is to guarantee the maintenance of the habitats and species they support and their capacity to provide essential ecosystem services, as well as to promote their recovery and enhance the value of the services they provide.

This is the opinion of Juan Martín Bermúdez, environmentalist and coordinator of R&D and Environment at the Aponiente restaurant, who stars in the 15th episode of Naturalmente, the Fundación Biodiversidad podcast. The expert highlights the importance of the ecological restoration of wetlands in Spain and argues that “we must begin to look with interest at coastal wetlands, as they will save our lives”.


In this context, the Biodiversity Foundation of the Ministry for Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge supports, manages and coordinates different projects that contribute to the improvement of the conservation status of wetlands and the restoration of these key ecosystems.

On the one hand, it coordinates the
LIFE Cerceta Pardilla
which aims to recover at least 3,000 hectares of wetlands to reverse the risk of extinction of this critically endangered species in Spain and the most endangered duck in Europe. Brown teal depend on the presence of water in wetlands to breed successfully, so habitat loss and degradation is one of their greatest threats and endangers their survival. So far, within the framework of the project more than 54 hectares of wetlands have been acquired. in the El Hondo Natural Park (Alicante) for its improvement and adaptation as a habitat for the species, and agreements have been reached with landowners for the improvement and restoration of wetlands on a total of 1,340 hectares in the communities of Andalusia, Madrid and the Valencian Community.

In addition, the Biodiversity Foundation supports projects through the
Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan (PRTR), which contribute to the protection of these ecosystems.
that contribute to the protection of these ecosystems. Through the call for grants aimed at the renaturation of rivers in urban environments and the promotion of the bioeconomy, several initiatives are being carried out. RESTAURALCÚDIA works in the renaturalization of wetlands of the ecological corridor of the Bay of Alcudia (Balearic Islands), whereas BIORESILMED seeks to reverse the loss of biodiversity and increase the climate resilience of Mediterranean landscapes in the Ebro Delta and the Ebro Delta. coastal wetlands in the interior of Granada, Almeria and Murcia. On the other hand,
promotes the ecological restoration of riverbank ecosystems to increase their resilience to climate change through river stewardship.

Likewise, under the Framework of Priority Actions for the Mar Menor, it promotes 11 innovative and transforming projects for the restoration and environmental improvement in the agricultural area of this wetland and its surroundings. These initiatives act on more than 1,100 hectares with actions focused on improving good agricultural practices, reducing nitrate inputs to the lagoon and nature-based solutions for its ecological restoration.