Swamps, sloughs, marshes, bogs, fens; water purification, flood control, wildlife nurseries, nutrient providers, carbon sinks: wetlands have many names and serve many environmental purposes. But for centuries they have been viewed simply as hindrances to human development, obstacles to drain and dredge to make room for progress. Few have escaped this pressure. Research indicates the world may have lost as much as 87% of its wetlands over the past 300 years, with much of this loss happening after 1900. But in the mid-20th century scientists started grasping just how ecologically – and economically – important wetlands are, and the global environmental community rushed to protect those that still remained. The result was the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, an intergovernmental treaty designed to facilitate wetland conservation and sustainable use around the world. Named after Ramsar, Iran, where it was first signed in 1971, the convention today protects 2,413 wetlands encompassing some 2.55 million square kilometers (985,000 sq mi) and has been ratified by 170 countries. Satellite image of the marshes and mudflats of the Shadegan Wildlife Refuge, the largest wetland in Iran and a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance. The area provides a wintering habitat for a wide variety of migratory birds, and is the most important site in the world the marbled duck (Marmaronetta angustirostris). Image by the European Space Agency via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO). And yet, wetlands are still disappearing. In an article published in the journal Nature earlier this month, researchers Peter Bridgewater at the University of Canberra…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer