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How coordination of data can help protect the world’s vanishing wetlands

The Earth has lost more than half of its wetland extent since 1900. The satellite-based Wetland Observation Service (SWOS) is working to provide a data portal that will have real-world impacts, helping to track wetland degradation, identify pollution sources, and assess restoration strategies.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, wetland extent has declined drastically. The Ramsar Convention, which focuses on wetland assessment and protection, estimates the loss as between 64 and 71 percent across the globe. Degradation of wetlands continues today, but researchers, stakeholders, and data managers are working to coordinate data and information to help address this ecological concern.

Wetlands are a breeding ground for life, rivaling rainforests in their productivity. In spring, the air is filled with insects transforming from aquatic pupae into flight-borne adults. Migrating birds rely on wetlands as a stop-over in their journey, dependent on the abundance food sources that wetlands provide. For other species, wetlands are the final destination for breeding.

The ecosystem services provided by wetlands are numerous, ranging from freshwater supply and food production to water filtration and flood mitigation. Yet wetlands continue to face threats of pollution, draining, and encroachment. Better data availability can help track these changes and allow decision-makers to better protect the resources.