Wetlands and their role in agriculture are sometimes undervalued, leading to drainage and land reclamation for farming. However, we have never been more certain than now about their critical importance to sustain ecosystems and agricultural productivity.
Indeed, wetlands have been a part of agriculture for many millennia, due to the wide scope of valuable ecosystem services they provide. These include food and clean water, nutrient cycling and soil retention.
The Ramsar Convention, which promotes the conservation and conscious use of wetlands and their resources, defines them very broadly. They can include rivers, peatlands, lakes, swamps, mudflats, coral reefs, estuaries, water reservoirs, constructed wetlands, and more. Permanent inundation is not a requisite for an area to be considered a wetland.
Wetlands are areas where water covers the soil or is present either at or near the surface of the soil all year or for varying periods of time during the year, including during the growing season. Water saturation largely determines how the soil develops and the types of plant and animal communities living in and on the soil. Wetlands may support both aquatic and terrestrial species. The prolonged presence of water creates conditions that favor the growth of specially adapted plants and promote the development of characteristic wetland soils.
Wetlands can be crucial in providing a reliable source of water and rich soil for agriculture, but at the same time are at risk due to increasing farming demand. Large-scale infrastructure development, population growth, and climate change are also threatening the ecosystem services they provide.
TerraViva: Supporting rural landscapes to meet environmental and sustainable production goals
The consensus among governmental agencies, environmental nonprofits and researchers is that, to protect wetlands, a participatory, multistakeholder approach is needed.
At the Sustainable Agriculture Network, we are innovating through our signature program, TerraViva, to make effective landscape management a reality through the establishment of a common territorial agenda. Producers, communities, local governance structures and other local structures create a common vision and purpose from their own perspective, to achieve collective solutions that meet both production and environmental goals.
TerraViva is an emerging initiative within the framework of the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance, to integrate livelihoods, landscapes, and market systems to support small scale producers and their communities adapt to climate change, and restore nature, making them a part of the climate solution.