08 Nov 2022
Lieu: CICG | Room 3 & Online | Webex
This side event to the 14th Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar Convention), taking place from 5-13 November 2022, enhanced the knowledge of ways ecosystem-based approaches in the context of wetlands can offer for mitigating and adapting to climate change, protecting biodiversity and delivering ecosystem services on a global scale. This event was co-organized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the Geneva Environment Network, with the support of NetworkNature and the EU Commission.
About this Session
Wetlands play a critical role in tackling the multiple crises we face today. From marches to marine-coastal ecosystems, wetlands act as effective carbon storage units, maintain hydrological regimes and increase communities’ resilience and response to the impacts of climate change. Wetlands are a network of biological hotspots, hosting a variety of all life forms including plants, animals and microorganisms. Adaptation to the impacts of climate change and halting and reversing biodiversity loss cannot be achieved without ending wetland loss, restoring former or degraded wetlands, and stopping the rapidly increasing stress on the remaining ones.
By integrating the conservation of nature and societal challenges, ecosystem-based approaches, as part of the Nature-Based Solutions umbrella concept, have the capacity to offer transformative pathways to achieve sustainability. Healthy, functioning wetlands provide ecosystem services with economic, social, and health values for societies. To ensure the implementation of new protection and restoration laws and regulations in place, policy instruments are to be coupled with scientific data. Identifying robust and evidence-informed strategies for wise use of wetlands calls for a common understanding and exchange among specialists and decision makers on possibilities, opportunities and challenges.
This event enhanced the knowledge of ways ecosystem-based approaches in the context of wetlands can offer for mitigating and adapting to climate change, protecting biodiversity and delivering ecosystem services on a global scale. This exchange enabled policymakers and practitioners to integrate and utilize wetlands into their commitments to achieve sustainable development goals and support countries in reaching climate and biodiversity targets.
By order of intervention.
Secretary to the Water Convention, UNECE
Senior Policy Officer, Directorate-General Environment, European Commission
CEO, Freshwater Habitats Trust | Visiting Professor, Oxford Brookes University | Project Partner, PONDERFUL
Project Officer, Plan Bleu | Project Partner, WaterLANDS
Coordinator, MedWet | Project Partner, REST-COAST
Head, Water & Land Management, IUCN | Moderator
James DALTON | Head, Water & Land Management, IUCN | Moderator
The goal of this session is to discuss the role of wetlands in addressing climate change and biodiversity loss, with an emphasis on the role of Nature-Based Solutions. The purpose of this discussion will be to examine what Nature-Based Solutions can offer, as well as how wetlands play a vital role in contributing to both the biodiversity and the climate and water security agendas. This is in line with the theme of the 14th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties (COP14) on wetland’s action for people and nature. By participating in this session, and hearing from policymakers and practitioners, we hope that you will also gain a deeper understanding of how NBS actually contributes to delivering the convention.
Policies and Regulations
Sonja KÖPPEL | Secretary to the Water Convention, UNECE
NBS and transboundary cooperation
In the The Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention), wetlands are included as well as the interrelationship with the Ramsar Convention.
- NBS provides benefits to society, to the economy and to the environment. These include climate resilience, disaster risk reduction, water quality and availability, food security, raw materials, carbon storage, biodiversity, recreation, etc.
- Over 60% of the global freshwater flow occurs in transboundary basins. Transboundary water cooperation is thus a prerequisite for ecosystem and climate resilience and sustainable water management. NBS are often effective from a basin perspective bringing benefits for all riparians.
- NBS offer an opportunity to initiate and/or strengthen transboundary cooperation and contribute to regional peace and regional integration.
- Multiple experiences exist from basins across the world and should be shared: Danube, Rhine, Sixaola, Mekong, Chu Talas and Dniester.
Sonja KÖPPEL | Secretary to the Water Convention, UNECE | The Global Transboundary River Basins.
The Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) is now a legal and intergovernmental instrument aimed at preventing, controlling, and reducing the impacts of transboundary waterways and international lakes. It asks the parties to use waters in an equitable and reasonable way, shared water resources and to cooperate by setting up agreements and joint bodies.
- Legal instrument with 3 key principles: prevention of transboundary impacts, equitable and reasonable utilization of the shared water resources and cooperation (obligations for Parties).
- A unique platform to discuss progress of transboundary water cooperation worldwide under the umbrella of the United Nations.
- Opened to all interested countries, with more than 130 countries and 30 River Basin Organizations exchanging experiences and knowledge to prompt progress in cooperation through thematic meetings and activities.
- Currently 47 Parties worldwide and more than 15 countries under accession process.
The Water Convention addresses political and technical challenges of Parties and non-Parties in managing their transboundary water resources through capacity building activities and the development of practical tools and supports policy processes and technical cooperation from the national, to the basin and global levels.
NBS and the Water Convention
Actually, ecosystem conservation restoration is at the heart of the Water Convention, one of the main obligations. So countries are asked to ensure conservation and where necessary, restoration of ecosystems. In the early 200s, there was a lot of work on Nature-Based Solutions, with several workshops happening on this topic, publications such as Recommendations on Payment for Ecosystem Services and Integrated Water Resources Management.
Recently, we have been focusing on these activities through our climate change activities, such as the global network of basins working on climate change, which includes 18 basins worldwide, and events like a global workshop on ecosystem-based adaptation and basin transportation.
- Advancing ecosystem-based adaptation to climate change in transboundary basins
- Water and adaptation to climate change
One of the Water Convention’s activities is to conduct activities in transport basins, such as the nearest basin, which is shared with Ukraine. Besides providing major sources of drinking water, this basin also sustains a huge biodiversity, and its wetlands are transforming.
The agreement set up a joint commission which was created in 2018, but also developing a joint adaptation plan to climate change and actually to implement some adaptation measures, including some ecosystem-based adaptation measures such as restoration of floodplains, et cetera.
- Dniester implementation plan and links with national adaptation strategy, river basin management plan and INDC
- The Dniester Treaty
- The Dniester Commission
- Working Group on Biodiversity
- Dniester RBMP
- Stakeholder engagement
Similar activities are happening in other basins in the global network and the Water Convention promotes their implementation.
High level session during the sixth session of the Meeting of the Parties
The Protocol on Water and Health: strengthening the resilience of WASH and health services in times of climate change and pandemics.
- To provide an opportunity to appraise progress and take stock of the concrete results of countries’ responses in ensuring access to water, sanitation, hygiene and health for all in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- To foster an open dialogue on how to tackle the persisting gaps and challenges posed by climate change in the pan-European region to create climate-resilient WASH and health services.
Jakub WEJCHERT | Senior Policy Officer, Directorate-General Environment, European Commission
The EU Nature Restoration Law
Restoring ecosystems for people, nature and the climate
This proposal for this law came out in June 2022, as part of the institutional process being discussed jointly with Council, European Council and Parliament. The objective of the law is to restore ecosystems across the board in the EU. It forms part essentially of the European Commission’s thrust on the European Green deal. Protecting and restoring nature is a cornerstone of some of the various strategies of the European Green Deal, which include other aspects of greening such as promoting clean energy on combating climate change and a number of others. A basis for proceeding on a proposal on the nature of restoration law stemmed from the EU biodiversity strategy for 2030, which came out about two years ago. Essentially, this outlined four key pillars for the EU to address the loss of biodiversity and to bring nature back into our lives.
Jakub WEJCHERT | Senior Policy Officer, Directorate-General Environment, European Commission | The European Green Deal.
EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030
- Protect Nature
- Restore Nature
- Enable Transformative Change – This pillar involves businesses and communities in the transformation.
- EU For An Ambitious Global Agenda
We need to extend the areas of protection, and the proposal is to extend that up to 30% of protected areas to be protected and the core of 10% to be strictly protected.
As part of the analysis of the biodiversity strategy, it was noted that protection alone is not adequate. You must also focus on restoring nature, on bringing back the health of ecosystems both inside and outside protected areas. Additionally, a clear conclusion of the biodiversity strategy was that voluntary approaches that have been tried at EU level since the previous biodiversity strategy was published in 2010, have not been adequate.
- CBD COP 15
- UN decade on restoration 202-2030
- SDGs (in particular goals 14.2, 15.1, 15.2, 15.3)
- UNFCCC, Ramsar.
Moreover, EU Nature Restoration Law involves the international context where we are also working, namely CBD, the Convention of Biodiversity COP 15, where restoration plays an important role. There’s also the UN decade on restoration, which is from now to 2030, and a number of other work such as the Sustainable Development Goals and also other aspects such as the UNFC Ramsar Convention and a lot of other international activities. So we’re working within that context.
Restoration is already happening
However restoration is needed on a larger scale to ensure the sustained long term recovery of biodiversity, for the benefit of nature, the climate and people.
Nature Restoration Regulation: Structure
- Overarching objective
- Restoration targets
- Implementation framework
- National Restoration Plans – Monitoring and Reporting
Jakub WEJCHERT | Senior Policy Officer, Directorate-General Environment, European Commission | Nature Restoration Regulation: Structure.
First of all, it sets an overarching objective to restore certain areas of the EU by 2030, 2004 to 2050. And then, very importantly, it sets out a set of specific restoration targets, restoration targets across a number of ecosystems. Now, clearly, the restoration of wetlands plays a huge role in not only for nature’s sake, but also from the perspective of natural ways of both absorbing and storing carbon, as well as other benefits such as water purification, et cetera.
Each member state in the EU would have to develop plans of how to reach some of the targets that are set in the legislation, how, where and with what local communities and what regional specificities that is delegated. There is a high degree of subsidiarity delegated to the member states because obviously a lot of restoration has to take place on the ground or on the sea in local and regional situations.
- Contribution to i.a. international commitments
- By 2030 restoration measures will cover 20% of EU’s land and sea
- By 2050 measures in place for all ecosystems in need of restoration
- Protected Habitat Types (Annex I HD)
- Habitats of protected species (BHD)
- Marine Habitats (beyond HD)
- Urban ecosystems
- River connectivity
- Forest ecosystems
The targets essentially suggest that any of those ecosystems that are in unknown or bad condition should be converted to good condition by 2030-40 and getting close to 90% by 2050. That of course includes wetlands, it includes river rain ecosystems, includes freshwater ecosystems, but includes other ecosystems as well.
Experiences and Solutions
Jeremy BIGGS | CEO, Freshwater Habitats Trust | Visiting Professor, Oxford Brookes University | Project Partner, PONDERFUL
The critical role of ponds
I will discuss today how ponds play an important role in addressing climate change and biodiversity loss. When we talk about wetlands, we naturally think of big places, but numerically, most wetlands are small, like a natural pond in the Scottish Highlands, a manmade field pond in France, or a Mediterranean temporary pond in Sardinia in Italy. Around 80% of the world’s running waters are small. Nearly 90% of the world’s standing waters are smaller than one hectare. Ponderful is concerned with these small standing waters, promoting the use of ponds as Nature-Based Solutions for climate change adaptation and mitigation.
Small waters between 1m² and 5 ha in area which hold water for 4 months of the year or more (Ramsar pond / lake boundary: 8 ha). Evidence increasing over last 20 years of critical importance for freshwater biodiversity. At landscape level ponds support more species than rivers.
Ponds are particularly interesting to policymakers and conservation organizations due to the evidence that has been accumulating over the last 20 years showing these habitats support freshwater biodiversity. At a landscape level, they support even more species than rivers.
- Problem is: this knowledge that small waters are really important has come rather late
- Freshwater science traditionally focused on big, rivers and lakes
Now we are realizing that, unknowingly, a systematic bias against small waters has built up in policy for small streams and headwaters, but particularly for ponds.
Practical example of problem:
EU Water Framework Directive
- Protects all freshwaters in theory
- BUT has specific clauses which in practice exclude all waterbodies less than 50 ha: ie all ponds, many small lakes
- Urgent need to include policies that correct these old biases and give urgent protection to small water bodies.
Key aims of PONDERFUL
Bring together, collate and build current knowledge about ponds to inform better policy making.
Focused on the NbS for the future provided by ponds:
- Freshwater biodiversity where critical
- Potential for climate regulation: direct impacts on carbon cycle, evidence of exceptional ability to store carbon; but when polluted, potentially globally significant source of climate heating gasses.
- Regulating water flows
- Regulating water quality
- Providing resources, both food and materials, and supporting pollinators
- Contributing to human health and welfare: learning, inspiration and the physical and psychological experiences to be gained from ponds
Swiss large scale pond creation:
In Ponderful, we’re also looking forward and focusing on the Nature-Based Solutions for the future that ponds provide, especially for biodiversity and climate regulation. Now, I don’t have time today to discuss the individual Nature-Based Solutions we’re working on, but I will highlight two examples of how ponds can help to provide a rapid and powerful solution for freshwater biodiversity loss. The first example is for amphibians here in Switzerland, where it’s recently been reported that after decades of declines, large-scale pond creation over 20 years led to increases in ten out of twelve amphibian species found in the Argo canton.
- After decades of amphibian population declines, occupied ponds increased statewide for 10 out of 12 species, while one species remained stable and one species further declined between 1999 and 2019.
- Simple but massive conservation action leads to landscape scale recovery of amphibians
PONDERFUL demonstration site in UK
The second example is from one of Pond Phil’s demonstration sites. This one is in the UK, where in a typical lowland farmed landscape, that’s losing 1% of its freshwater plant species every single year, we added new clean water ponds, and that led to a 25% increase in whole landscape wetland plant biodiversity.
- Added new clean water ponds to typical lowland intensive agricultural landscape
- Losing 1% of wetland plant species from landscape, every year
- Led to 25% increase in landscape wide freshwater plant diversity
- Level of change unprecedented in water management at landscape scale
Working with policy makers
Finally, Ponderful is working with policymakers to propose two urgent developments in partnership with other Horizon 2020 projects:
- The need to apply WFD to small waters ie by applying System B which already includes waterbodies less than 0.5 km². First, to ensure that the Water Framework Directive applies its system B classification, which does include ponds. This would be a huge step forward.
- To apply simple pond policy goals: e.g. massive pond creation programme to double clean water pond numbers (evidence from PONDERFUL)
And secondly, to adopt simple and robust pond policies. For example, to undertake a massive pond creation program and include this in the nature Restoration law alongside efforts to protect rivers. Include ponds in Nature Restoration Law, alongside rivers and floodplains, to include most biodiverse and abundant parts of the water environment.
That’s a very quick introduction to what Pondiful is doing and the work we’re doing to use ponds as Nature-Based Solutions for biodiversity and climate change.
Arnaud TERRISSE | Project Officer, Plan Bleu | Project Partner, WaterLANDS
Restoration of wetlands and engaging with communities
What is Plan Bleu ?
- A regional Activity Centre attached to the Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP-1976), first-ever UNEP Regional Seas Programme
- Created 43 years ago as a systemic and prospective analysis centre in the Mediterranean
- Hosts MedECC Secretariat – A network of Mediterranean Experts on Climate and Environmental Change
Plan Bleu is very much involved in several aspects, especially the Mediterranean Observatory on the environment and development to enlighten decision makers and monitoring the implementation of the military and strategy for sustainable development, as well as sporting transition towards the green and blue economy, which really what Waterlands is about.
At a Glance
Water Lands is a project funded by the European Green Deal program. It’s part of a call on restoring biodiversity and ecosystem services. The project officially started in 2021 and is running until 2026. It’s coordinated by the University College of Dublin and has a consortium of 32 partners, and from 14 countries, from research industry, public authorities and NGOs.
Project Objectives and WP linkages
In terms of project objectives, work package links, and special divisions, our goal is to help decision makers, local communities, and restoration practitioners enhance cooperation towards restoring wetlands on a large scale in Europe through the seven objectives you can see on the screen. Creating a legacy after the project involves aligning governance, fostering community engagement, mobilizing finance and restoring wetlands.
Arnaud TERRISSE | Project Officer, Plan Bleu | Project Partner, WaterLANDS | Project Objectives and WP linkages.
We have 15 knowledge sites, where restoration has been ongoing and knowledge and results have been generated, which will inform future restoration on the six action sites featured in the project, which will restore about 100 acres of wetlands until the project is complete. However, the goal is to show how restoration can be done at a large scale in the future.
- Building a Legacy across
- 15 Knowledge Sites
- 6 Action Sites
- 14 Partner Countries
- Ramsar sites: good coverage
- Doñana, SP
- Venice Lagoon, IT
- Store Mosse, SW
Wetlands Restoration through Nature-Based Solutions
Wetlands Restoration through Nature-Based Solutions exemplifies how Nature-Based Solutions can boost biodiversity and benefit society. Wetland restoration is our best hope for mitigating and adapting to climate change impacts as they provide valuable services that have already been mentioned by some of the speakers.
Waterlands sites we are working on:
- Abbeyleix Bog: Community-led restoration project in Ireland (Knowledge Site) circa 200ha
- Blocking drains and keeping the water in the landscape
- Science and evidence-based approaches: three ecotope surveys carried out to reveal condition of the site.
- Former saltworks in Camargue, France (Knowledge Site) circa 6500ha
- Hydrological works to improve gravitational water flows
- Restored Mediterranean water cycle
- Sea dyke was abandoned and breached so the natural connection between the sea and the marshes was established.
Here, I would like to emphasize the importance of the particular ideological regime for restoring biodiversity, function, and value. Restoration must begin by determining how ideology has changed over time. And it’s what we’re trying to do in this project, engaging communities. This is restoration work. Restoration doesn’t work if people don’t want to engage in this project.
Engaging Communities in co-design and co-creation
- Large-scale wetland restoration initiatives or “living labs”
- Connectivity with communities
- Sharing ecological, community, governance and financial expertise
We actively involve communities in co-design and co-creation. It’s all about large scale wetland restoration initiatives or what we call living labs, ranging from well wetlands in different stages of implementation across the EU to well wetlands that have never been protected, new wetlands where remediation work is just beginning to newly established wetlands where remediation works are just beginning to wetlands with fully implemented restoration efforts.
WaterLANDs contribution to the EU Nature Restoration Law
- The project will produce guidelines on upscaling wetlands restoration that will inform and support the EU Nature Restoration Law implementation
- Support decision makers in strengthening wetlands target and ambition to lead to a transformation pathway of net zero emissions from wetlands
- Show that NbS cumulative benefits (recreation, biodiversity) exceed the benefits of engineered solutions
Alessio SATTA | Coordinator, MedWet | Project Partner, REST-COAS
Coastal restoration for estuaries and deltas : A question of connectivity and scale
REST-COAST in a nutshell
- 38 partners coordinated by the Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya of
- 12 countries
- 18.4 million euros of budget
- 4 years of implementation
REST-COAST : the ambition
We are focused on large-scale restoration projects and how we can establish this continuum between rival delta history and coast and sea, also known as lens interactions. We are very much interested in the transition from applied research to action. We will try to do this as much as possible and also demonstrate how large restorations contribute to climate mitigation and adaptation.
- Based on Nature-Based actions and solutions, the expected results of the project will translate into technological advances and will influence funding and policies related to large-scale coastal restoration projects. Through blocks of natural solutions, connectivity will be increased in the continuum river delta estuary coast sea
- REST-COAST aims to be an example of the type of applied research and innovation we need to face the climate emergency through large-scale restoration of coastal ecosystems in order to both adapt and mitigate.
- Unless we decarbonize coastal protection and introduce the coastal blue carbon potential of coastal ecosystems, it will be hard to simultaneously advance in coastal protection and climate mitigation
- We want to demonstrate how coastal adaptation can be carried out with a controlled carbon footprint and cost, although it will require early action and investments based on coastal optimism
REST-COAST: expected results
- Scalable adaptation through restoration plans ( NBS blocks)
→ Connectivity + natural dynamics Darnaude et al 2022)
Connectivity through scalable adaptation and restoration plants that we call Nature-Based solutions for risk reduction and biodiversity conservation.
- Coastal ESS for risk reduction and BioDiv gains
→ Decarbonised coastal protection & blue C mitigation
Coastal protection and carbon neutralization are essential. We need to decarbonize coastal protection through art, infrastructure, and artworks as well. This activity has a significant carbon footprint, and that is really one of the issues.
- Replicable upscaling drive (S Arcilla et al, 2022)
→ Systemic restoration on river delta/estuary coast continuum
Carbonisation is embedded in coastal protection through systemic restoration of rivers, deltas, estuaries, and coasts.
- Enablers for upscaling coastal restoration
→ COASTAL RESTORATION PLATFORMS for engagement beyond REST-COAST
- Integrate biophysical and socioeconomic expertise
→ Transition from local/regional Pilots to worldwide coasts
It is also necessary to integrate transition from local to regional pilots to wirewide coast as we see later in the project. As part of this project, we also have a mission to export our achievements to other international partners through a kind of cooperation board, which is quite innovative.
Roadmap for governance and policy transformation
With this restoration platform, we hope to achieve better governance, bringing together different levels of decision-making. This is another crucial point when you are implementing a restoration or a two-based solution.
- Action plan for adaptation through restoration at each Pilot
- Transformative governance recommendations
- Pilot demos + restoration contracts (CO-RE-PLATS)
However, I would like to conclude with something that is happening right now. We realize at this COP that there is no agreement on a definition of Nature-Based Solutions. Regarding wetland restoration, conservation as a Nature-Based Solution, as you know, we are discussing resolution 18.20 today, this afternoon. That’s exactly how we can also, in our world, in the answer world, come with a share and harmonize definition with other conventions, especially with the Uneasy on Nature resolution. In my opinion, harmonizing our convention with all the other conventions and with the work already presented is very important.
As a result, I appeal to all contracting parties currently present to fight for this resolution and to support us in achieving full consensus.
Q1: I’m curious about the Ponderful project. As mentioned, the projects mainly focus on the very small ponds in nature and you are trying to make legislation on this point, but actually there are many very small points and if the climate becomes dry, those points will disappear. So how do you deal with those small ponds?
Jeremy BIGGS: As the climate becomes dryer, some ponds will get shallower and some may become dry. That’s true, but there are so many of them that I am worried about, but I don’t think it’s catastrophic and the way we deal with it is by making new ponds. We have big programs of making new ponds, which sounds like an artificial intervention, but actually ponds have been created by natural processes for millions of years, as long as there has been land and as long as there has been water. Natural processes have been making small water bodies. And when we create them, we simply simulate that natural process. It is actually the epitome of a naturebased process. So they’re so important that we will make new ones, essentially. But we do need, of course, to control climate change because that’s an enormous threat to all kinds of fresh waters, not just small water bodies. But I don’t think it means that they’re all going to disappear tomorrow.
Q1: So do you have a monitoring system for all the points in your project?
Jeremy BIGGS: We’re doing some detailed investigations in a scientific sense of a lot of sites. We have a very big scientific program, but this is very different to national and international monitoring programs. Those are not well implemented globally or nationally, yet we have some, we’re reasonable in the UK, we’re quite good at it, but not that good. There are different European states who are quite good at small water bodies. Mostly monitoring systems don’t properly take account of small water bodies, either ponds or running waters. This is part of the policy bias against small waters generally.
Q2 : Again, to follow up on these small ponds, so many may have been historically installed. Are you favoring the natural ones versus those? Are you exploring where there might be a connection that’s been hidden, that it’s really manmade? And are you interested in maintaining that or letting them go and not beat ponds anymore?
Jeremy BIGGS: We would judge them mostly on their biodiversity interest. I mean, sometimes there are also cultural reasons for maintaining historic features in the landscape as well. And like you say, all over the developed all over the industrialized world, there are lots of historic reasons that small water bodies have been made. But on the whole, as biologists, we would look first at what biodiversity benefits they’re providing, because it doesn’t really matter from a biodiversity sense how the hole in the ground has been made. It can take on an importance just because that’s the way freshwaters are. They work as a network. Plants and animals from long established ancient weapons can colonize new ones quite quickly.
Q3: I would like to know how the Nature Restoration Law is going on, because now it’s in discussion and what are the next steps.
Jakub WEJCHERT: The proposal was made at the end of June, and since then already canceled. So that’s basically all the member states have been expressing views, asking various forms of questions, and they were part of the procedures now is discussions with council and also with Parliament and that will be going on this year and into next year. Then after that it would be the start of implementation.
Q4: The question is in the site selection for ponds, how do you balance a potential impact to an intact ecosystem? Location? Do you really try to locate them in degraded landscape areas and different ponds? For instance, how would you address creating a pond in a forested situation and balancing that with impact to the forest?
Jeremy BIGGS: The central principle of our pond creation work in the UK, and I would say again in all countries with industrialized land management, farming or forestry, the central principle is that we use ponds to put back clean, unpolluted water in the landscape. Because that’s the scarcest resource for water in most parts of most industrialized landscapes, maybe different in more pristine locations. So we look for places where there’s a catchment around the pond, which can be tiny. We can make a clean water pond with a catchment the size of this room. We put the water bodies into places where they can drain where clean water will drain into them. We also have very disturbed forest ecosystems in the UK, of course, though many are ancient, but they’re also disturbed. And there’s usually plenty of spaces which have been disturbed but still have clean catchments generating clean water, or comparatively clean water, where we can put those water bodies without damaging existing interest. And of course, a fundamental principle of making any new habitat is that you don’t damage something that’s I’ll put air quotes here.
Historically, people often dug ponds into peatland. We would not do that now, of course, because that would be entirely the wrong thing to do. So we do it by being careful about where we put it. But the guiding principle is that we’re trying to put clean, unpolluted water back into the landscape because that’s the biggest reason. That’s actually the biggest reason for those increases I showed you. We put clean water back into otherwise quite generally polluted landscapes.
Q5: You talk about the restoration law and the implementation. We have been confronting, like, what would be the organization structure, the caddy, the training and the entire body of scientific management of implementation for this ecosystem service. So what would be the likely design right now, or the structure right now you have in mind, or maybe on paper?
Jakub WEJCHERT: One thing to have a proposal for a law, it’s another thing to have a law in place, and it’s another thing to make it happen. As I mentioned, one of the big implementation blocks are basically the national restoration plans. So what the law proposes is targets for restoration across the EU and applying to each member state, but then each member state. So that could be France, it could be Italy, it could be Slovenia, has to prepare their own national restoration plan of how they would address the targets. So if they’re for targets for wetlands, for example, how would that member state, where would it aim to put in place some of the restoration of the wetlands? What specific regions? How would they involve local communities and stakeholders in the process? And how would they bid for financing to be able to make some of these things happen? Those are some of the basic elements. Now, this is where, in fact, the whole communities of knowledge, of scientists, of practitioners who are involved in restoration is very important because across the EU, member states will be designing these plans, and they will be looking in some very often for additional expertise and knowledge and know how.
Scaling up and spreading knowledge will be a crucial part of the implementation. I think this is where both the scientific and the practitioner community, if I can call it that, can play a big role in helping and being part of the process of developing the national restoration plans, being active in being involved with member states, developing these plans. It will require public participation. And that’s where this will be an important role for researchers and practitioners to play a big role.
Q6: You talked about the draft resolution on Nature-Based Solutions. Maybe you can anticipate to us why that’s so important to implementing the convention’s mission.
Alessio SATTA: Of course, when we talk about the implementation of the convention, we refer to the four RAMSAR strategic plan 2016-2024, in this case, about strategic gold free. We refer to wisely used all wetlands and target twelve, which is about restoration. So all the countries have all the contracting parties have a specific target in terms of improving the capacity and restoring wetlands. We can really create a platform of support for all the countries, not only those that are involved in our project, but also other contracting parties that can benefit from our work.
Q7: I had a question not related to the EU restoration law, more a general question to all of you. There can be conflict or complementarity in the uses of water, as we know, and in a warming climate, we hear more and more this kind of dilemma about water for agriculture, water for biodiversity. So do you, as a community of practice, have views about where do we go from wetlands, where do reserve water for agriculture start, and do you see synergies or conflicts between these two logics?
Arnaud TERRISSE: I appreciate it because it’s a topic that’s been pretty hot in the last weeks, especially in France. I think this is where we should really bring in the landscape approach to wetlands restoration conservation. And I think we need to think about water uses and rethink them in a way that we need to drastically move away from intensive uses. So my views on this is that we should also, in a wider context of wetland restoration, think about how agricultural users can be integrated within this landscape approach, which should end up in all activities and then really spread across the policies.
Q8: We’re referring to creating new ponds, but I wanted to ask you, what about preventing the destruction of existing ponds, which is quite a tragedy, and how do you work with local authorities to create the socioeconomic incentive to keep these funds alive? Because it’s so easy for the local authority to create parking or anything else which is much more cost-effective in terms of revenue that management or abound.
Jeremy BIGGS: I would emphasize there are so many ponds. There are still a lot of ponds. There are millions of ponds. There are maybe three and a half million ponds just in Europe. So there’s a lot of ponds. So we would try to prioritize those that are most important. So the first thing is to find out as much as you can about the ponds and to tell people which ones are most important to protect from a biodiversity perspective. And we’re applying a system a little bit like that in the UK. I suppose the only thing is you have to tell people how important small water bodies are so they think they should be protecting them. That’s in the end the way to do it. I don’t have another solution, really, apart from that. They have to know that they’re important.
Can I just talk quickly about the farming situation? A lot of the problems with agriculture are, of course, to do with the two big problems. The abstraction of water from the environment, which doesn’t actually affect small water bodies so much, because they’re often in places where they’re not affected by those sorts of water sources. Not saying not a big problem, but it’s maybe less important for the ponds we’re talking about, but the bigger problems are to do with diffuse pollution, and I think the solutions to those are very difficult for bigger water bodies. In the meantime, we’ve got a biodiversity crisis and a climate crisis, so we should get on with the small water body solutions which can tackle those quite quickly, even in intensively managed landscapes, intensively cultivated landscapes. So I think it’s quite possible with small waters because they have very small catchments. The more natural the catchment, the better the quality of the freshwater will be. That’s quite hard to create for big water bodies. Big rivers, big lakes, big wetlands. It’s much easier for small ones. That’s the key to their success.
Closing | James DALTON | Head, Water & Land Management, IUCN | Moderator
The number of different projects that are embodied within this type of network nature program is a real resource for the Nature-Based Solutions community, but also for parties to the Ramsar convention since it has knowledge of community networking, some new insights into science, and a lot of knowledge of how wetland issues and challenges work. I understand they are also creating a database that highlights where some of these resources are so countries can access the latest information from this network of research programs. Therefore, I hope people will be able to use that to enhance their relationship with water and implement the convention.
— GENeva Environment Network (@GENetwork) November 8, 2022