The “nexus” between water, food and energy has been recognised as one of the most fundamental relationships and challenges for society. The importance of this nexus was re-emphasised at the recent UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in June 2012. Wetlands2 are a fundamental part of local and global water cycles and are at the heart of this nexus.
Wetlands are essential in providing water-related ecosystem services, such as clean water for drinking, water for agriculture, cooling water for the energy sector and regulating water quantity (e.g. flood regulation). In conjunction with their role in erosion control and sediment transport, wetlands also contribute to land formation and therefore resilience to storms. Moreover, they provide a wide range of services that are dependent on water, such as agricultural production, fisheries and tourism.
Notwithstanding the high value of the ecosystem services that wetlands provide to humankind, wetlands continue to be degraded or lost due to the effects of intensive agricultural production, irrigation for food provision, water extraction for domestic and industrial use, urbanisation, infrastructure and industrial development and pollution.
In many cases, policies and decisions do not take into account these interconnections and interdependencies sufficiently. However, the full value of water and wetlands needs to be recognised and integrated into decision-making in order to meet our future social, economic and environmental needs. Using the maintenance and enhancement of the benefits of water and wetlands is, therefore, a key element in a transition to a sustainable economy.