"The ecological and water-conserving function of wetlands in the landscape must be maintained and valuable wetlands preserved for the future."
A large number of plants and animals are dependent on different types of wetlands. Many threatened or near-threatened species are linked to these habitats. One reason for this is that large parts of Sweden’s wetlands have been drained and thus lost since the early 19th century. In addition, many of Sweden’s remaining wetlands are impacted by drainage and other water operations, forestry, nitrogen deposition, damage from vehicles and by no longer being cut for herbage or grazing. Many types of wetlands will also be impacted negatively by climate change and the establishment of alien species.
Damaged wetlands have a reduced capacity to provide important ecosystem services, such as binding and storage of carbon, cleaning water, providing flood protection and contributing biological production. Many wetlands have archaeological remains that may suffer damage when sites are restored or cut for fuel peat.
What are the challenges?
It is important to protect wetland environments, and many bogs, fens, wet meadows and wet woodlands are included in Natura 2000, the EU’s network of valuable natural areas. Sweden has also designated wetlands of international significance as Ramsar sites within the framework of a wetlands convention. Even so, many Swedish wetlands with high natural and cultural values lack satisfactory protection. New drainage schemes are now prohibited in some parts of Sweden. A review of the regulatory framework for water operations is needed to determine whether it can be tightened up for other parts of the country, and improved for other water operations. As well as preventing new damage, many wetlands need to be restored and managed so as to preserve their values and safeguard valuable ecosystem services. It is also important that everyone using land and water does so in a sustainable manner.