Among the many functions of wetlands are support for biodiversity – bird, animal, plant and other life – and storing carbon. Historically wetlands have helped people survive, producing fish and game, and, during early agrarian periods, hay for livestock. But during the industrial revolution and until recently, demands for more intensive land use, including forestry and agriculture, led to wetlands being destroyed. This disturbance of wetlands’ important functions, and the fact that thawing in Arctic wetlands has already begun to release toxic mercury, makes wetlands a potential time bomb – or, if protected, a saving grace.

There are various efforts by Arctic states and others to govern and manage human activities that impact on wetlands. These regulatory institutions inspire a wide range of local action to manage, restore and/or protect wetlands, yet much more needs to be done – especially in the face of rapid environmental change. In particular, there is a need for:

  • more comprehensive inventories of wetlands areas that are comparable across countries to more effectively guide and assess policy measures
  • a better understanding of which regulatory and management activities are most successful, and in which contexts, to multiply or scale up those activities, and
  • comparative analysis of the strengths and weakness of current strategies and practices, which can help make efforts already under way more effective.

The project, which runs until spring 2020, aims to strengthen engagement around the roles and functions of Arctic wetlands as a resource to support sustainable development and resilience in the Arctic. The overall goal is to make policy recommendations based on scientific analysis and further develop management strategies to conserve wetlands’ biodiversity and the ecosystem services they provide.