Green Gazette: Essential Wetlands

This Green Gazette includes updates on wetland conservation, a report on food safety with insects, a food monopoly investigation, and more.

Wetlands provide food, water, protection, and livelihoods to millions of people.
Photo by Adobe Stock/Ermess

As droughts become more frequent and severe in some regions of the world, water conservation and infrastructure are critical components of mitigating the worst impacts. Wetlands are one such water-rich environment that can lessen drought’s effects. According to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands’ Global Wetland Outlook, “Wetlands provide us with water, they protect us from floods, droughts, and other disasters, they provide food and livelihoods to millions of people, they support rich biodiversity, and they store more carbon than any other ecosystem.”  

Yet the very disasters wetlands protect us from are simultaneously jeopardizing their existence; according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), wetlands are threatened by worsening droughts and other effects of climate change, such as sea-level rise and storm surges. The Global Wetland Outlook’s 2018 report states that natural wetlands have declined by 35 percent worldwide since 1970. Increased wildfires and reduced wildlife habitat are also effects of wetland displacement, according to the EPA, so the agency works with governments to restore and protect wetlands, and provides community-level adaptation strategies for addressing pressures.

Research has also shown that the benefits of wetlands may extend beyond the water, wildlife habitat, and carbon sequestration they offer. A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in July 2021 suggests that constructed wetlands, when implemented regionally at a watershed that drains into a common waterway, can help prevent agricultural runoff that degrades water quality, reducing the amount of nitrate and sediment in large streams and rivers. This runoff affects the health of wildlife and humans, and requires costly water treatment, so, within our current agricultural system, researchers say implementing and restoring optimally placed wetlands is the most cost-effective way to reduce nitrate and sediment in waterways.

Still, the Global Wetland Outlook report says wetlands made and managed by humans don’t necessarily perform the same ecosystem functions as natural wetlands do, because of “changes in water supply, removal of vegetation, or introduction of species or nutrients.” However, the report says wetland reserves are fortunately still vast, and that the Global Wetland Outlook’s mission is to help people and policymakers recognize the value of wetlands, and to provide recommendations for wetland conservation and wise use that can halt and reverse their decline.

Learn more at Global Wetland Outlook.

Edible Insects and Food Safety

Though the idea of ingesting insects might make some eaters squirm, the farming of insects to feed livestock and supplement human diets is becoming a more widespread practice. In response, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) recently released a report on edible insects, “Looking at Edible Insects from a Food Safety Perspective.” This report covers the risks involved with producing and consuming insects as a food source, and provides tips on how to counteract those risks. The risks involved aren’t necessarily new; some of the associated hazards are applicable to all foods, not just insects, and depend on species, harvesting methods, and processing methods.

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