ClimFishCon 2020: Wetlands in focus at International Conference on Impact of Climate Change on Hydrological Ecosystem and Fisheries

FE Bureau

Coastal zones, fresh water bodies and arable land across the globe suffer from 'fertility paradox', according to Rob Roggema, professor, spatial transformations & design expert, sustainable urbanism, at the Hanze University of Applied Sciences, Netherlands. Roggema was addressing the International Conference on Impact of Climate Change on Hydrological Cycle, Ecosystem, Fisheries and Food Security - ClimFishCon 2020 - here on Thursday.

"Most glaring is this less discussed paradox. The fertile zones in both land and sea make them extremely attractive for people to live there. This eventually leads to unlimited occupation and exploitation of these areas posing threat to natural ecosystem. We then start prioritising economic growth over the earth-features that brings us life. And we end up destroying the regenerative power of the land and the sea, leaving it uninhabitable," he said.

"While doing this, we also ignore that inherent risks in these zones increase with the looming threats of climate change such as sea level rise, intensity of storms and hurricanes or flooding due to increased discharge of heavy rainfall from inland, "he added. "For preserving the ecological balance, respecting the earth that hosts us, we need to assert in every sphere of our activity that parasitism has no place and natural sustainability is the key to urban development," he said.

B Madhusoodana Kurup, founder & vice chancellor, Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies (KUFOS) and organising chairman, ClimFishCon 2020, said that preserving wetlands need a paradigm shift in conservation ethics, for the resource by its very nature is 'conserved and protected'.

While water is life, wetlands that receive water and waste from upstream sources are regarded as 'kidneys of landscape', according to Kurup. He said that they are life support system that ensures functioning of water cycle. Extensive foodchain and biological diversity in wetlands make them 'biological supermarkets', he added.Wetlands and peatlands store at least 550 gigatonne of carbon, which is almost double the amount stored in world's forests. Though they cover only 3% of the landmass, they carry 30% of the soil carbon.

It is estimated that 64-71% of wetlands declined the in 20th century, of which 35% loss happened since 1970s. "It is noteworthy that even a small nation like UK has designated its 161 wetlands as Ramsar sites whereas India being a mega-diversity country, has so far managed to delineate a mere 26 sites. "Clearly' we have much more to be done in our conservation efforts," Kurup said.

The conference, on its second day, held scientific sessions on natural hazards and disaster risk management. The sessions focused on topics like climate change impact on natural disasters, climate change adaptation, coastal vulnerability assessment techniques and costal erosion management. The conference is jointly organised by the CUSAT School of Industrial Fisheries, and department of fisheries, government of Kerala.