Wetlands as defined by the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (RAMSAR) include lakes and rivers, swamps and marshes, wet grasslands and peatlands, oases, estuaries, deltas and tidal flats, near-shore marine areas, mangroves and coral reefs, and human-made sites such as fish ponds, rice paddies, reservoirs, and salt pans.

Wetland ecosystems hold an important part of Europe’s biodiversity. A significant number of birds and mammals depend on freshwater wetlands for breeding or feeding. Wetlands are some of the planet’s most productive ecosystems. They provide spawning grounds for fish and ideal conditions for other species groups such as dragonflies and amphibians.

Over 60% 0f European wetlands were lost before the 1990s. Although the drainage of wetlands has been common practice in Europe for centuries, the extent of this human intervention has increased significantly in the past century and especially in the last 50 years, leading to a substantial decrease in the number, size and quality of wetland areas.

Wetlands are particularly important for carbon sequestration. They also provide a wide range of other services such as water provisioning, management and purification and flood defence and offer recreational and tourism opportunities.

Wetland ecosystems cover mires, bogs and fens. From the 233 habitat types listed in Annex I of the Habitats Directive 47 can be classified as wetland habitats. About 290 species covered by the Habitats Directive are linked to wetland ecosystems. Of this 25 % of wetland reptiles are threatened. 

Figures from the EU 2010 Biodiversity Baseline

Further reading

Selected links

LIFE projects on wetlands

LIFE projects on bogs and mires

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands

Wetlands internatonal