The extent and distribution of the world’s wetlands

Nick C. Davidson, C Max Finlayson, Etienne Fluet-Chouinard

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Knowledge of the geographic distribution, types, and change in extent over time of wetland ecosystems informs policy, planning, and decision-making and has long been recognised by the Ramsar Convention as essential to achieve its aims of the conservation and wise use of all wetlands. Yet, only one-third of Ramsar Contracting Parties have reported having completed a national wetland inventory. Wetland remote sensing can fill this gap by providing geospatial datasets at the relevant scales and levels of detail. Recent information suggests that the global area of wetlands is approximately 12-16×106km2, but gaps exist for regions and wetland classes, so current estimates are likely still underestimates. The most global wetland area is inland natural wetlands, with much smaller areas of coastal wetlands and human-made wetlands. The largest wetland areas are in Asia, North America and Latin America, and the Caribbean. The extent of complete national wetland inventories is improving and has the potential to provide valuable data for comparison and benchmarking other mapping approaches.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRamsar wetlands
Subtitle of host publicationValues, assessment, management
EditorsPeter A Gell, Nic C Davidson, C Max Finlayson
Place of PublicationNetherlands
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9780128178034
ISBN (Print)9780128178041
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jan 2023


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