Wetlands are territories whose biotope and distribution of living organisms are mainly characterized by the presence of water, regardless of its degree of salinity.
According to the Law on Water and Aquatic Environments (Lema), any “land, whether exploited or not, usually flooded or gorged with fresh, salty or brackish water permanently or temporarily” whose “vegetation, when it exists, is dominated by hygrophilic plants for at least part of the year” is considered as a wetland.
The Ramsar Convention provides an even broader definition of these environments, including a larger part of the marine domain.
Wetlands within the meaning of this Convention are any “areas of marshes, fens, peat bogs or natural or artificial waters, permanent or temporary, where the water is stagnant or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water whose depth at low tide does not exceed six metres”.
They are essential for the infinite benefits they provide to humanity, from freshwater supply, biodiversity, flood control, groundwater recharge and climate change mitigation to food and building materials.
However, one study after another shows that, in most parts of the world, wetlands are experiencing a continuous decline in their size and quality. As a result, the ecosystem services they provide to people are compromised.
Wetlands around the world offer many services to humans. In agriculture, for example, they can be used for the:
- agricultural production: grasslands, pastures, rice, fruit, vegetables, cereals, oilseeds – lamb from the Gironde estuary, salicornia from the Atlantic coastal wetlands, Camargue rice, etc., – salt, Ile de Ré, Aigues-Mortes -, Essonne cressonnières…;
- fish production: troll fishing in the Lorraine or Forez lakes, capechas fishing in the Narbonnaise or Villepey lakes. Overseas, wetlands produce a food resource for more than a million people through fishing, fish farming, shellfish farming;
- shellfish production: Bouzigues oysters in the Thau pond, in the Leucate coastal pond, etc.
- raw materials: for construction – wood, reeds from the Beer, Camargue, Seine estuary, etc. for handicrafts – clay, wicker, rushes, etc. or for heating – wood, peat -.
They are among the most productive environments on the planet; they are the cradles of biological diversity, providing the water and productivity on which countless species of plants and animals depend for their survival. These environments can be considered as safe environments for healthy and quality agriculture and especially for FAO’s fight against hunger.