Wetlands and the 2004 Tsunami

Wetlands International is a leading global non-profit organization dedicated solely to the crucial work of wetland conservation and sustainable management. Well-established networks of experts and close partnerships with key organizations provide Wetlands International with the essential tools for catalyzing conservation activities worldwide. Wetlands International’s activities are based on sound science and have been carried out in over 120 countries. Wetlands International’s mission is to sustain and restore wetlands, their resources and biodiversity for future generations through research, information exchange and conservation activities, worldwide.

Wetlands have an important role to play in ensuring a sustainable future for people in South and South East Asia, devastated by the tsunami events of 2004. For example, the recovery and re-habilitation of mangroves and linked coastal and marine habitats will be vital to increase coastal protection and support coastal fisheries. Safeguarding wetland systems in the region will also help secure sufficient freshwater supplies. Although these coastal environments have evolved over long periods of time, human development pressures have weakened the ability of ecosystems to quickly respond and recover without human intervention.

As part of the global response to the 2004 tsunami disaster, the Ramsar Convention asked Wetlands International to coordinate efforts to bring together scientifically sound advice on wetlands in the region in order to assist governments in choosing the most effective response measures. Together with Ramsar’s international partners and other relevant research, environmental and aid organizations, Wetlands International built a web site www.wetlands.org to deliver this sound advice. This joint effort also allows all these organizations to combine resources, share information and produce timely advice as and when it is needed. This site will deliver sound advice on the role of wetland ecosystems in providing a range of services to local populations and guide priority activities, such as the restoration of mangrove systems. Such information can help inform the settlement and re-development plans in the region, but can also be used when deciding on preventative measures in other parts of the world.

Kevin Erwin moderated an intranet discussion forum on Coastal Wetland Assessment and Ecological Restoration operated to encourage appropriate technical discussions and enhance the communication of specialists and dissemination of relevant information. The goals of this group were to discuss topics related specifically to coastal wetland ecosystem assessment and ecological restoration such as pre-tsunami/pre-development baseline information, relevant methods of assessment, synthesis of pertinent literature, ecological histories of damaged and un-damaged sites, potential restoration scenarios and costs. It also aimed to build a network of qualified specialists and people interested in these issues.

-based upon Wetlands International article-