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World Wetlands Day: It's time for wetlands restoration


A group of deer play in the wetlands in Yancheng City, east China's Jiangsu Province, August 4, 2023. /CFP
A group of deer play in the wetlands in Yancheng City, east China's Jiangsu Province, August 4, 2023. /CFP

A group of deer play in the wetlands in Yancheng City, east China's Jiangsu Province, August 4, 2023. /CFP

The topic for the 27th World Wetlands Day is "It's time for wetland restoration." This underlines the critical necessity to prioritize the restoration of lost or damaged wetlands and encourages everyone to participate.

According to the United Nations, wetlands are ecosystems in which water is the dominant driver of the environment and its accompanying plant and animal life. Wetlands are defined broadly to include both freshwater and marine and coastal ecosystems, including all lakes and rivers, underground aquifers.

Research published in the journal Science shows despite occupying only 1 percent of the Earth's surface, wetlands including peatlands, mangrove forests, salt marshes, and seagrass beds store 20 percent of the planet's organic ecosystem carbon. Wetlands' high carbon sequestration rate and effective sequestration per unit area significantly outperform those of marine and forest ecosystems, making them extremely helpful in mitigating the climate problem.

Shi Jianbin, an associate professor at Beijing Normal University, said China has made significant progress in the restoration of wetlands. Over the last 20 years, the country's mangrove area has risen from 22,000 hectares to 27,100 hectares, making it one of the few countries in the world to do so. During the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020), China repaired 1,500 kilometers of coastline and 30,000 hectares of coastal wetlands.

Over the past decade, the Chinese government has introduced and implemented a series of overall plans related to wetland protection and restoration, such as the Programme for a Wetland Protection and Restoration System, the Master Plan on Major Projects for the Conservation and Restoration of National Key Ecosystems (2021-2035), and the National Wetland Protection Plan (2022-2030), which all have specific content relating to and requirements for wetland restoration.

The National Wetland Protection Plan, which was released in December 2022, particularly proposes to adopt near-natural measures for the comprehensive improvement and systematic restoration of wetlands in those areas where the ecological functions of wetlands are seriously degraded, such as the lower-reaches of the Yellow River and coastal areas of the Yellow Sea and Bohai Sea.

In addition, some tailor-made special action plans on wetland restoration have been developed and put in place, such as the Special Action Plan for Mangrove Protection and Restoration (2020-2025) and the Special Action Plan for Spartina Alterniflora Control (2022-2025). The former special action plan requires not only the afforestation of 9,050 hectares of new mangrove forests, but also the restoration of 9,750 hectares of degraded mangroves by the end of 2025, while the latter requires a 90 percent removal rate of Spartina alterniflora nationwide by 2025 to effectively curb the spread of this invasive species.

Wetland biodiversity is important for human health, food security, tourism and jobs. Let's work together to protect our wetlands.

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