World’s freshwater experts welcome support for small wetlands and waterbodies

26th June 2023

Freshwater Habitats Trust CEO Professor Jeremy Biggs has joined a group of the world’s leading freshwater specialists to officially welcome a new resolution to promote and protect small wetlands.

Professor Biggs is one of more than 50 scientists and conservationists from around the world to sign a letter to Dr Musonda Mumba, Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. Coordinated by the consortium for EU Horizon 2020 project PONDERFUL, the letter congratulates Dr Mumba on the resolution on ‘enhancing the conservation and management of small wetlands’, which is an important step towards the better protection of small waterbodies.

The adoption of the new resolution is an important signal to national and international institutions of the importance of small wetlands and waterbodies for the protection of freshwater biodiversity.

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. Adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971, it came into force in 1975 and now has 172 member countries, known as ‘contracting parties’. There are now 2,493 Wetlands of International Importance, including 175 in the UK.

Young woman standing in a pond wearing boots and examining a plant.

Professor Biggs recently spoke at a side event of the 14th meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

In his presentation, he highlighted the importance of small waterbodies to freshwater biodiversity and urged countries to designate small wetlands that meet the criteria as Wetlands of International Importance. He also encouraged countries to develop national plans to promote the conservation and restoration of these habitats, which are vital for freshwater life.

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands has now officially adopted Resolution XIV.15: the Conservation and Management of Small Wetlands.

Professor Jeremy Biggs

Professor Jeremy Biggs said: “We warmly welcome this development, which raises the profile of small waterbodies and their importance for wildlife. Because of their size, small waterbodies have long been overlooked by scientists and policymakers but in fact we now know that they support more biodiversity than larger bodies of water, such as lakes or rivers. We are also starting to understand their potential to capture carbon and the important role they could play in the fight against climate change.

“There is a systematic bias against small waters, despite the fact that 90 percent of global standing waters are ponds of less than one hectare and a very large proportion of running waters are small, often seasonal, streams. Through PONDERFUL, we are tackling this bias head on by studying and raising awareness of the role of ponds for biodiversity and climate change adaptation. This new resolution is hugely encouraging and reflects the shift in mindset around small waterbodies.”

PONDERFUL (POND Ecosystems for Resilient FUture Landscapes in a changing climate) is a Horizon 2020 “Research and Innovation Programme” project funded by the European Union. Based across Europe and South America, the consortium is investigating how ponds can be used as nature-based solutions for climate change adaptation.

Read the letter