Sentinel 2 image of the Rufiji Delta in Tanzania (Bands 8, 11 and 4) showing mangroves in dark red.

GEO-Wetlands is a global initiative and part of the work programme of the Group on Earth Observations with the goal to support the protection, conservation and sustainable use of wetland ecosystems by providing high quality tools, information and knowledge to the global wetland community. It directly adresses different policy frameworks and related reporting requirements. GEO-Wetlands is funded through several national and international projects and supported by a partnership of organisations, institutions, companies and individuals.

Wetlands are hot spots of biodiversity and provide a wide range of valuable ecosystem services, such as water purification, hydrological buffering against floods and droughts, coastal protection and climate regulation. Despite their disproportionate importance for people and nature, wetlands are one of the fastest declining ecosystem types worldwide. Information on wetland ecosystems and their services is often scattered, difficult to find, and hard to integrate into decision making. To improve this situation, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands has been supporting the conceptualization of a Global Wetlands Observing System (GWOS) since 2007. Starting from 2011 members of the Freshwater Ecosystem Change working group of the Group on Earth Observations – Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON) have been coordinating this effort.

The GEO-Wetlands Initiative takes over this effort to move towards an implementation of the GWOS in a collaborative and multidisciplinary way. It is a cornerstone of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands as it aims to provide the Ramsar Contracting Parties with the necessary Earth Observation methods and tools to better fulfill their commitments and obligations towards the Ramsar Convention. It will also contribute directly to the development and implementation of best monitoring practices for the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on Target 6.6 “By 2020 protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes”, supporting the development of methodological approaches and tools on the SDG indicator 6.6.1 “percentage of change in water-related ecosystems extent over time” and other global monitoring frameworks like e.g. the CBD Aichi Targets.