New Protected Status for Lake Chad Highlights World Wetlands Day

New sites have been added to a treaty protecting the world’s wetlands.

Lake ChadCountries across the globe celebrated World Wetlands Day on February 2 by designating national preserves and vowing to protect wetlands from climate change and maintain biodiversity.

Cameroon declared its portion of Lake Chad an internationally significant wetland, bringing the entire lake under the protection of the Ramsar Convention for the protection of wetlands, WWF reports.

The other three countries bordering the lake-–Niger, Chad and Nigeria–granted protected status last decade. Cameroon’s announcement will make joint management programs for the lake easier, according to WWF.

“Lake Chad’s inscription as only the 13th transboundary formally recognized wetland is highly significant as 11 of the areas so far declared are in Europe,” said Denis Landenbergue, WWF International’s wetlands conservation manager in a press release. “Lake Chad joins the Saloum Delta shared by Senegal and Gambia as only the second such site in Africa.”

Better management of Lake Chad is needed to save the shallow lake from disappearing. Its surface area has shrunk by nearly 90 percent since 1963.

Other countries took similar action in honor of World Wetlands Day.

South Africa, Algeria and the Seychelles designated wetland sites for protection, joining new preserves that were announced in January in the United States, Brazil and El Salvador.

Pakistan created a program through its Ministry of Environment to catalogue and study Himalayan wetlands.

World Wetlands Day celebrates the adoption of the Ramsar Convention in 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar. Almost 1900 wetlands have been declared areas of international importance since the treaty was adopted. In the coming year, member countries will focus on the effects of climate change on wetlands.

“This year’s theme – Wetlands, Biodiversity and Climate Change – with the slogan ‘Caring for wetlands: an answer to climate change,’ captures the sense of urgency we all feel about the need to address the potentially disastrous consequences of global climate change as quickly as possible, particularly in the wake of the Copenhagen meeting of the UNFCCC back in December,” said Anada Tiega, secretary general of the Ramsar Secretariat.

Wetlands serve important ecological functions such as climate regulation, flood control, erosion protection and water purification. Most migratory birds use wetlands as a resting place on their annual journeys.

Source: WWF

Learn more about the Ramsar Convention

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