World Wetlands Day 2nd February

Feb 02, 2024

Copyright: Umweltbundesamt

World Wetlands Day 2nd February

The theme for this year’s World Wetlands Day is “Wetlands and human wellbeing.” It emphasizes the intricate ties between our physical, mental, and environmental health and the state of the world’s wetlands. In the Western Balkans, where communities often rely on wetlands for livelihoods, this connection is particularly profound.

Wetlands, encompassing diverse ecosystems from lakes and rivers to swamps and coastal areas, are characterized by water as the primary environmental factor. Despite covering only 6% of Earth’s land surface, they support 40% of plant and animal species, playing a crucial role in environmental, social, and economic aspects. Essential for human well-being, wetlands provide vital services such as water regulation, flood control, and water purification, with over a billion people, or one in eight globally, depending on them for their livelihoods. Their intrinsic value and contributions make wetlands indispensable for sustainable development and climate resilience.

Why They Are in Danger:

Despite their vital role, wetlands face alarming rates of decline, loss, and degradation. In the past 50 years alone, the world has lost 35% of its wetlands – three times faster than forests. The Western Balkans are not exempt from this trend, with wetlands threatened by factors such as drainage for agriculture, pollution, overfishing, and the impacts of climate change.

Changing Mindsets for Conservation:

The challenge lies in dispelling the misconception that wetlands are wastelands. Instead, we must recognize them as lifegiving sources of jobs, incomes, and essential ecosystem services. Governments and communities in the Western Balkans must shift their mindset, valuing and prioritizing wetlands for the myriad benefits they provide.

This World Wetlands Day, let us commit to preserving the delicate balance between wetlands and human wellbeing. Through awareness, conservation efforts, and sustainable practices, we can ensure that these vital ecosystems continue to thrive for generations to come. Embrace the beauty of the Western Balkan wetlands, where the tapestry of life is interlaced with the waters that sustain us all.

The EU4Green project has placed its focus on floodplains in protected areas, as they are exemplary for other ecologically important habitats and measures and activities for their protection can be transferred. Therefore, one exemplary site in each of the six Western Balkan economies will be identified, relevant data will be compiled, and project-specific geodatabases will be built. The data gathered will be used to draft or update the Standard Data Forms of the selected sites, and to devise a set of objectives and measures for each particular field of interest, from conservation to connectivity, Nature-based Solutions, and invasive species management.

Wetlands in the Western Balkans as focus of EU4Green:

Floodplains of the Black Drin

Nestled beneath Albania’s Korab-Koritnik massif, the floodplains of the Black Drin create a haven for biodiversity. From rare plant species to diverse wildlife, this wetland is a testament to the delicate balance between towering mountains and flourishing ecosystems.

Una River with Tufa Formations

Bosnia’s Una River winds through landscapes, showcasing captivating tufa formations sculpted by mineral deposits. These geological wonders contribute to the unique natural beauty of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s wetland treasures.

Mountain Streams of Zalli i Rupes (Prokletije)

Hidden within Kosovo’s Bjeshket e Nemuna (Prokletije) National park, the untouched mountain streams of Zalli i Rupes offer an unspoiled sanctuary. Pristine waters cascade through rugged landscapes, exemplifying the intrinsic connection between untamed wilderness and delicate ecosystems.

Moraca River and Skadar Lake Estuary

Montenegro’s Moraca River shapes dynamic landscapes, converging into the Skadar Lake Estuary. A symphony of life unfolds, hosting diverse flora and fauna, showcasing the intricate relationships between water, land, and rich biodiversity.

Radika River, Mavrovo National Park

Preserving North Macedonia’s natural heritage, Radika River meanders through Mavrovo National Park. This wetland area contributes to the park’s diverse ecosystems, highlighting the country’s commitment to environmental conservation.

Koviljsko-Petrovaradinski Rit

Serbia’s vital wetland, east of Novi Sad along the Danube, plays a crucial role in maintaining ecological balance. This area is accessible and serves as a natural oasis, emphasizing the significance of wetlands in sustaining diverse ecosystems.