Water and Wetlands: interdependent and under threat

News Feb 02, 2021

If we do not protect and restore wetlands, the repercussions will be felt throughout the water cycle. We spoke to Martha Rojas-Urrego, Secretary-General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands about the role of wetlands for both freshwater and oceans – and the importance of source-to-sea management.


Wetlands are the natural systems which connect the terrestrial, freshwater, and marine realms. Their importance cannot be overstated but they are currently disappearing faster than any other ecosystem. One way to reverse this dangerous trend is through increased use of the source-to-sea approach that takes into account the connections between what happens on land, in freshwater systems and in the ocean.

The Action Platform for Source-to-Sea Management (S2S Platform) is working toward a world in which land, freshwater, coastal and marine resources are managed holistically, balancing benefits for the environment, communities and economy from source to sea. The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands is a partner of the S2S Platform.

This year we celebrate World Wetlands Day on 2 February with a focus on how wetlands are a vital source of freshwater. How does the source-to-sea approach to management highlight this connection?

Wetlands are an important part of the source-to-sea continuum – the status of wetlands has implications across the whole water cycle. If we do not protect and restore wetlands the repercussions will be felt throughout the water cycle.

Healthy wetlands are vital to a healthy source-to-sea system. They play a key role as part of the nature-based solutions needed to address the current threats to oceans and challenges faced by human communities and can help build resilience to climate change. Wetlands also make up part of the green infrastructure from source to sea in actions to achieve SDG14 Life Below Water.

Taking a source-to-sea approach to management will ensure that the role of wetlands is properly taken into account. We must better understand and value what wetlands do for water. With climate change expected to increase water shortages, wetlands’ water management role has never been so crucial to bio-physical and socio-economic resilience.

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands is part of the SIWI-hosted Action Platform on Source to Sea Management, how has this partnership assisted the Convention in achieving its goals?

Being part of the Platform has facilitated engagement with organizations that can contribute to the conservation and wise use of wetlands. Ramsar Convention on Wetlands has been able to increase the understanding of the role wetlands play in the source-to-sea system through S2S Platform activities. Shared knowledge and commitments will help us as we strive to restore nature and protect life on land, in the water and oceans.

The Action Platform on Source to Sea Management recently published its 2021-2025 Strategy, how can the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands contribute to achieving its goals?

The Ramsar Convention will be supporting countries that are working for the conservation of wetlands, including freshwater, coastal and marine ones such as mangroves and sea grasses. As co-custodian of SDG 6.6.1 indicator we are contributing to data through the reporting mechanism of the Convention, international co-operation and active designation of Wetlands of international importance. This will lead, in part, to wise use of wetlands.

It is also important to raise awareness of the need for the source-to-sea approach to management if we are to achieve the wise use of wetlands. We at the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands see our participation in the S2S Platform and its activities as conducive to enhanced commitments to collaborative action and the success of the Platform. This is why it is a priority for us to remain active in our role as members of the Platform.