The World's Largest Wetlands

Wetlands are important for a wide array of reasons, including high biological production, oxygen production, carbon storage, water purification, and flood control. In addition, many endangered species depend upon wetlands, and in some regions, fish from wetlands are the primary local source of protein.  But how do we set conservation priorities if we don’t know which wetlands matter at the global scale? Up until 2005, there was no list and description of the world’s largest wetlands.

Now there is: The World’s Largest Wetlands: Ecology and Conservation, co-edited by Lauchlan Fraser and Paul Keddy.

Humans have destroyed approximately 50% of the world’s wetlands. As wetlands shrink in area, their important services decline too— there is reduced carbon storage, lower biological diversity, lower fish production, less available water during drought, higher flood levels in spring, and higher risk of water pollution. Previously, these globally significant wetlands had not been highlighted, described, ranked or compared, and the research that had been done was sometimes fragmentary or published in obscure scientific journals. Through the contributions of an international team of scholars, this book summarizes the status, ecological dynamics, functions, and conservation needs of the world’s largest wetlands

An overview of the contents of this book appeared as a paper in Bioscience in 2009. This paper gives an overview, but the individual chapters in the book are still key reading, particularly if you are personally living or working in one of these major wetlands.

World's largest wetlands map of 11 key areas