By Chris Walley, A Rocha
For over 30 years A Rocha has found itself working with wetlands in many countries: the Alvor Estuary in Portugal, the Vallée des Baux and the high-level wetlands of Domaine de Courmettes in France, the Aammiq Marshes in Lebanon to name but a few. What have we learnt about saving them?
The most important thing we have learnt is that wetlands do not save themselves: they need defending. They are vulnerable: sensitive to being polluted, drained and ending up as rubbish dumps or building sites. They are also commonly undervalued. This is hardly surprising; in the English language at least almost all the words commonly used for wetlands, swamp, bog, morass, quagmire, are regularly used as figures of speech for negative or difficult situations. Whereas any threat to a wood or a beach will automatically generate a defence by the public, a threat to a wetland is likely to be ignored.
Because of this combination of being vulnerable and undervalued we have learnt that encouraging community involvement is vital. That involvement can come in three ways.
Sooner or later however monitoring will not be enough. Action must be taken. So for instance with the Alvor Estuary in Portugal’s congested Algarve, A Rocha has successfully fought a decade-long battle against leisure development that would have badly impacted a Ramsar site.
Wetlands are valuable and never more so than at the time of climate change. Yet they do not save themselves: they need work!
Photo: Trapping of migratory swallows at roosting time in mist nets in the Vallée des Baux, France. The birds are ringed and released on the following day. © Chris Walley