Countries agree on Wuhan Declaration to protect wetlands

A wetlands conservation agreement known as the Wuhan Declaration has been adopted at a major meeting of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. 

The meeting, known as COP14 and co-located in Wuhan and Geneva, sought to address the 35% decline in global wetlands since the Convention entered into force in 1975. 

The declaration calls for “strong will and practical actions” to promote wetlands conservation. Actions include: supporting wetland-related legislation; assessing wetlands resources; conserving, restoring and sustainably managing wetlands in urban and suburban areas; and strengthening global technical cooperation and knowledge sharing.

Wetlands have important ecological and climate functions. China’s coastal wetlands form an important part of the East Asian–Australasian Flyway for migratory birds, for example. They are the most threatened but least protected ecosystems in China, according to a 2015 study by the Paulson Institute. Research shows that between the 1950s and 2000s, China lost 73% of its mangrove wetlands, mostly due to economic development.

In response, the government drew a red line in 2015 to protect 53.33 million hectares of wetlands. According to the latest survey, the wetland area now stands at 56.35 million hectares. Mangrove areas have increased from 22,000 hectares in 2001 to 27,000 hectares today, making China one of the few countries with a net increase in mangrove area. 

China’s long-awaited Wetlands Protection Law came into force on 1 June this year, followed by the publication of a National Wetland Conservation Plan (2022-2030) in October. That plan includes the aim to increase the protected proportion of China’s wetlands from 52.65% to 55% by 2025. 

At the COP14 opening ceremony, President Xi announced that 11 million hectares of wetlands will be incorporated in China’s new national park system. The whole system will cover about 10% of China’s land area, he added.

Xi also announced that China will build an international mangrove centre in Shenzhen. It will carry out mangrove protection technical exchanges, information sharing, monitoring and foreign aid training, in order to provide assistance to all states signed up to the Ramsar convention, especially developing countries, according to Shenzhen News.

Sun Lili, founder of the Shenzhen Mangrove Wetlands Conservation Foundation, told media that the foundation will set up a mangrove protection special fund, and pool resources from all walks of life, to support the building of the new centre.

Read more of our stories on China’s Wetland Protection Law and mangrove restoration.