(Photo courtesy Suncheon-si, from Ramsar.org)
This week, South Korea hosts its first Ramsar Convention Meeting in the city of Changwon, near the spectacular wetland site seen in the photo above. The good news is that several countries, including Japan, will add more sites to be protected under the 1971 UN convention. The streams in Kume-jima, for example are in Okinawa, where they flow from Mt Uegusuku creating an important habitat for endangered species under IUCN Red List and National Protected Species lists. Surrounding communities also use stream water for liquor production! Tundra Swans (Cygnus columbianus), Steller’s Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus pelagicus) and native fish species will also get better protection at other new Ramsar sites in central Japan.
The bad news, of course, is that a number of wetlands, river basins and other areas are under increasing pressure from development and pollution. Korea, the host of the meeting is under heavy critisism for its heavy-handed Saemangeum land reclamation project on the west coast: an area about seven times larger than Manhattan has been turned into a massive industrial complex.
"Within Saemangeum, (we) recorded a decline of 137,000 shorebirds, and declines in 19 of the most numerous species, from 2006 to 2008," according to the study by conservation groups Birds Korea and Australasian Wader Studies Group that will be released at an international Ramsar convention on wetlands this week in South Korea, according to Reuters.
South Korea's environment minister Lee Maan-ee said to The Korea Times that the largest gathering of 2,000 environmentalists from 158 countries in Changwon will be a major catalyst to spur sustainable so-called "Green Growth'' in Korea:
Wetlands absorb about 40 percent of the carbon emissions produced worldwide. Peatlands are especially important in slowing global warming. No one can say for sure how much damage the Earth will sustain if these wetlands disappear, Lee said. "Since Korea is known for its growing emission of carbon, designating wetlands for preservation and showing them to the world will be the key to preventing worsening climate change,'' he said.
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Written by Martin Frid at greenz.jp