||Capacity Building in the Assessment of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services for Conserving Wetlands for the Future
||Brij GOPAL, Anil P. SHARMA, Subodh SHARMA, Sudipto CHATTERJEE, Dinesh K. MAROTHIA, M.A. HASSAN, K.S. RAO
||Issue 6, published April 2016
- Wetlands, their biodiversity and ecosystem services are degraded and lost because they are neither assessed nor valued by projects related to land and water resources development or management.
- Most stakeholders are unaware of the wetland ecosystem services other than those related to direct consumptive use.
- Conflicting interests of various stakeholders can be resolved by promoting awareness and capacity building.
- The future of wetlands can be ensured by effective policies and legislation rooted in the understanding of their biodiversity and ecosystem services together with the factors that sustain them.
||Wetlands support a significantly large proportion of biodiversity. Their ecosystem services range from provision of water, food (fish and rice) and other resources to the regulation of water regimes, water quality and climate. They enhance the aesthetics and are hubs of cultural and recreational activities. Wetlands are threatened most by changes in land use/land cover and inappropriate water resources management because of poor understanding of their biodiversity and ecosystem services and lack of capacity for their assessment and valuation. To improve the capacity of various stakeholders, we prepared guidelines for rapid assessment (sampling, identification and enumeration) of biodiversity and major ecosystem services of wetlands. These guidelines were tested briefly in three different wetlands in Kolkata, Guwahati and Kathmandu by demonstration in the field and discussion with over 230 researchers, scientists, managers, policy makers and NGOs representatives besides about 100 members of the local wetland-dependent community. It generated interest and helped improve their understanding of the wetland benefits. The guidelines (available online) may be elaborated and adapted for assessment of biodiversity and ecosystem services and capacity building in different regions. A policy brief (also available online) highlighting the ecosystem services of wetlands and their relationships with biodiversity was prepared and discussed at another workshop for managers and policy makers. Extensive capacity building effort is recommended for the necessary change in wetland related policies.