Focus on wetlands
A wetland is a biome (an ecological area) that is either permanently or seasonally saturated with water. Marshes, swamps, peat bogs and fens, but also rivers, lakes, deltas and floodplains are all examples of wetlands, each defined by the flora and fauna they support. Located in different climates around the world both along coasts or inland, wetlands vary in size from isolated potholes to large salt marshes.
Hotspots of biodiversity; wetlands they are home to more than 100,000 freshwater species, essential for many amphibians and reptiles, for bird breeding and migration. For humans, wetlands provide invaluable ecosystem services. They regulate water availability and quality, filtration, purification, and nutrient cycling as well as provide food for millions of people. They absorb shocks from natural events such as floods and droughts and regulate climate through carbon storage.
Despite their richness in biodiversity and ecosystem services, wetlands are one of the fastest declining ecosystems worldwide – 64% of the world’s wetlands have disappeared since 1900. An increase in agricultural and urban land use change, infrastructure development, water diversion and pollution of air and water are some of the main factors causing their degradation and loss.
Information on the location of wetlands, their ecological character and their services is often sparse and difficult to find or access. Wetlands are often viewed as wastelands, to be drained, filled and converted to other purposes. Ignorance and misunderstanding of their role therefore results in limited coverage of wetlands in policies and management practices.
The Satellite-based Wetland Observation Service (SWOS) project fills the information gap, which is currently hindering adequate management and protection of wetlands. SWOS generates information on wetland ecosystems using the new possibilities offered by free satellite data. The SWOS Service Portal will provide wetland managers, policy-makers and scientists with access to maps and indicators of wetland condition and changes. Click for more information on the SWOS approach.
The most important objective of SWOS is to provide a user-friendly wetland monitoring and information service, that is developed with and for the users. With an innovative approach, SWOS aims to supply stakeholders with harmonized wetland information to support management and reporting for environmental policies in different regions and at different scales. The service will demonstrate opportunities for improved wetland management, planning and decision making, promoting the integration of wetlands across key policy areas.
SWOS is a European Union funded project under the Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation.The partnership represents organisations specialized in developing, testing and validating innovative techniques and methodologies as well as user organisations involved with wetland conservation ensuring the final SWOS Services meet the actual needs of end-users.