Wetlands International

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Wetlands International is a global organisation that works to sustain and restore wetlands and their resources for people and biodiversity. It is an independent, not-for-profit, global organisation, supported by government and NGO membership from around the world.

Based mostly in the developing world, it has 20 regional, national or project offices in all continents and a head office in Ede, the Netherlands.

The NGO works in over 100 countries and at several, very different scales to tackle the most pressing problems affecting wetlands. With the support of dozens of governmental, NGO and corporate donors and partners, it supports over 100 projects.

Wetlands International's work ranges from research and community-based field projects to advocacy and engagement with governments, corporate and international policy fora and conventions. Wetlands International works through partnerships and is supported by contributions from an extensive specialist expert network and tens of thousands of volunteers.


It was founded in 1937 as the International Wildfowl Inquiry and the organisation was focused on the protection of waterbirds. Later, the name became International Waterfowl & Wetlands Research Bureau (IWRB). The scope became wider; besides waterbirds, the organisation was also working on the protection of wetland areas.

Later, organisations with similar objectives emerged in Asia and the Americas: the Asian Wetland Bureau (AWB) (initiated as INTERWADER in 1983) and Wetlands for the Americas (WA) (initiated in 1989). In 1991, the three organisations started to work closely together.

In 1995, the working relation developed into the global organisation Wetlands International.[1]

Wetlands International works in many thematic areas throughout the world, but is the leading scientific expert on peatlands and climate change, as well as wetlands and waterbird migration, based on extensive research as well as field projects.[2]

Key areas of work[edit]

Currently, Wetlands International has four strong areas of work, which are:


From the Chinese marshes to the turberas of Argentina and peatswamp forests of Central Kalimantan, Wetlands International has become the global expert in peatland restoration and conservation.

Central Kalimantan's peatswamp forest[edit]

In the severely degraded peat lands of Central Kalimantan (Indonesia), drainage canals and logging have had disastrous impacts in an attempt to convert the unsuitable peatswamps into rice fields. By building small dams and blocks, the drainage of the area was stopped, preventing further oxidation of the peat soil. Moreover, the area was reforested with native tree species and community fire brigades to prevent the island's huge problem of peat fires.

China’s Ruoergai marshes[edit]

Runoff from the glaciers in the Himalayas towards China’s lowland is regulated and stored in the Ruoergai marshes. The Wetlands International China office worked to declare this peatland a Ramsar site, giving the Chinese government the obligation to protect the area. Furthermore, because of the work with the local Chinese authorities in measuring the impact of different management options, peat mining and drainage are now no longer allowed in Ruoergai and the neighbouring counties. This also leads to improved water supply to the Yellow River and Yangtze River.

Turberas of Tierra del Fuego, Argentina[edit]

In Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, the Wetlands International Latin America office has built awareness on sustainable use of the peatlands from the local to the national level, which have contributed to their protection.

Adapting to climate change[edit]

Many types of wetlands contribute greatly to our resilience to the various impacts of climate change. Based on years of research, Wetlands International works in the field and at the policy level to maintain and improve this important function of wetlands in adapting to climate change.

Coastal wetlands[edit]

Coastal wetlands such as mangrove forests and coral reefs reduce the impact of storms. Mangroves can even cope with sea-level rise and provide protection from impacts of waves. Therefore, we work in Southeast Asia to build 'Green Coasts' by community reforestation of mangroves. Watch the video: "Mangrove restoration for coastal protection" on the right.


In the Himalaya Mountains the organisation works to restore wetlands to reduce the impacts of glacier melt and precipitation extremes on densely populated regions downstream India, China and Bangladesh. Watch the video "Adapting to Climate Change in the Himalayas" on the right.

Dryland regions[edit]

In dryland regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, less rainfall and longer droughts increase the - already huge - importance of the Sahelian wetlands, and at the same time threaten overexploitation of these areas.

Wetlands International works in Mali to improve the livelihoods and water provision of communities in the Inner Niger Delta in a changing climate.

Biodiversity and waterbirds[edit]

Wetlands International works globally to protect and restore the rich biodiversity of wetlands. Wetlands like marshes, lakes and coastal zones have on average the richest biodiversity of all ecosystems. Millions of waterbirds depend on them. Wetlands International is the key global organisation for waterbird monitoring and for promoting the protection of waterbirds and their key habitats. The organisation is also strongly involved in investigating and protecting specific ecosystems like peatlands and other species like fresh water fish.

Monitoring Waterbirds: International Waterbird Census[edit]

Wetlands International has a long history of success in engaging local people in species conservation. Thousands of volunteers help to monitor millions of waterbirds annually all over the world. We have several groups of scientists working voluntarily in our specialist groups to analyse all the information of the people monitoring waterbirds. Local populations across major bird flyways in all countries assist in waterbird monitoring. This is a major global programme, with waterbird counts organised in different regions of the world. All of them come regularly with publications showing the current state of the waterbird populations.

Promoting the protecting of wetlands along the flyways of waterbirds[edit]

Wetlands International is promoting the establishment of ecological networks of well managed, protected wetlands, along the main flyway routes of migratory waterbirds. These wetlands provide stepping stones for migratory waterbirds; crucial for their survival. Our organisation supports international governmental agreements to create these networks.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]