Earth has lost one-fifth of its wetlands since 1700—but most could still be savedLike so many of the planet's natural habitats, wetlands have ...Earth has lost one-fifth of its wetlands since 1700—but most could still be saved
Like so many of the planet's natural habitats, wetlands have been systematically destroyed over the past 300 years. Bogs, fens, marshes and swamps have disappeared from maps and memory, having been drained, dug up and built on.
Being close to a reliable source of water and generally flat, wetlands were always prime targets for building towns and farms. Draining their waterlogged soils has produced some of the most fertile farmland available.
But wetlands also offer some of the best natural solutions to modern crises. They can clean water by removing and filtering pollutants, displace floodwater, shelter wildlife, improve our mental and physical well-being and capture climate-changing amounts of carbon.
Peatlands, a particular type of wetland, store at least twice the carbon of all the world's forests.
How much of the Earth's precious wetlands have been lost since 1700 was recently addressed by a major new study published in Nature. Previously, it was feared that as much as 50% of our wetlands might have been wiped out. However, the latest research suggests that the figure is actually closer to 21%—an area the size of India.