Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences
REVIEW

How much wetland has the world lost? Long-term and recent trends in global wetland area

Nick C. Davidson

Institute for Land, Water and Society, Charles Sturt University, Albury, NSW, Australia; and Chemin des Jordils 18, 1261 Le Vaud, Switzerland. Email: arenaria.interpres@gmail.com

Marine and Freshwater Research 65(10) 934-941 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MF14173
Submitted: 25 June 2014  Accepted: 25 July 2014   Published: 24 September 2014

Abstract

It has been frequently stated, but without provision of supporting evidence, that the world has lost 50% of its wetlands (or 50% since 1900 AD). This review of 189 reports of change in wetland area finds that the reported long-term loss of natural wetlands averages between 54–57% but loss may have been as high as 87% since 1700 AD. There has been a much (3.7 times) faster rate of wetland loss during the 20th and early 21st centuries, with a loss of 64–71% of wetlands since 1900 AD. Losses have been larger and faster for inland than coastal natural wetlands. Although the rate of wetland loss in Europe has slowed, and in North America has remained low since the 1980s, the rate has remained high in Asia, where large-scale and rapid conversion of coastal and inland natural wetlands is continuing. It is unclear whether the investment by national governments in the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands has influenced these rates of loss. There is a need to improve the knowledge of change in wetland areas worldwide, particularly for Africa, the Neotropics and Oceania, and to improve the consistency of data on change in wetland areas in published papers and reports.

Additional keywords: coastal, conversion, inland, loss, Ramsar Convention.


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