The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for Water and Wetlands

The “nexus” between water, food and energy is one of the most fundamental relationships and challenges for society. The importance of this nexus was reemphasised at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in June 2012. The outcome document adopted at Rio+20 “The Future We Want” noted: “We recognize the key role that ecosystems play in maintaining water quantity and quality and support actions within respective national boundaries to protect and sustainably manage these ecosystems” UNCSD (2012, para 122). Wetlands are a fundamental part of local and global water cycles and are at the heart of this nexus. We also expect wetlands to be key to meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the future Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Wetlands are essential in providing water-related ecosystem services, such as clean water for drinking, water for agriculture, cooling water for the energy sector and regulating water quantity (e.g. flood regulation). In conjunction with their role in erosion control and sediment transport, wetlands also contribute to land formation and therefore resilience to storms. Moreover,  
they provide a wide range of services that are dependent on water, such as agricultural production, fisheries and tourism.
Notwithstanding the high value of the ecosystem services that wetlands provide to humankind, wetlands continue to be degraded or lost due to the effects of intensive agricultural production, irrigation, water extraction for domestic and industrial use, urbanisation, infrastructure and industrial development and pollution. In many cases, policies and decisions do not take into account these interconnections and interdependencies sufficiently. However, the full value of water and wetlands needs to be recognised and integrated into decisionmaking in order to meet our future social, economic and environmental needs. Using the maintenance and enhancement of the benefits of water and wetlands is, therefore, a key element in a transition to a green economy.