GEO logo
         GEOSS Portal Button

GEO 2017-2019 Work Programme


Geo Wetlands Initiative

Activity ID: 122


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 new GEO-Wetlands initiative takes over this effort to move towards an implementation of the GWOS in a collaborative and multidisciplinary way. Therefore, it is a cornerstone of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands since it aims to provide 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.

Activities for the period

The initial phase of GEO-Wetlands (2016-2017) will focus on initiating the Community of Practice and first working groups, developing a communication & dissemination plan, assessing user requirements based on the work of involved projects, develop capacity building and training concepts, develop the GEO-Wetlands and GWOS governance and management structure and ensure that all results and achievements of the involved projects are maintained, disseminated and stay available for the community.

All activities will support one or more of these overall GEO-Wetlands objectives:

  • Establishing the structures for ownership and governance as well as the processes for funding in place;
  • Developing, maintaining and delivering the infrastructure (Portal, Database, Knowledge-hub, Data Broker) for a Global Wetlands Observing System (GWOS) that allows centralized access to wetland related data, information and knowledge for all wetland stakeholders;
  • Engaging providers and users of EO based and other wetland related data and information products from all levels (local to global) and sectors (science, industry, policy) under a common set of objectives and goals within a GEO-Wetlands Community of Practice (CoP) that functions as a network and bottom-up cooperation platform;
  • Advocating the use of diverse Earth observation data and satellite-based information as a valuable tool for wetland mapping, monitoring and assessment, especially in support of global conventions and initiatives; and
  • Delivering information and knowledge in a user-friendly, harmonized and quality-ensured way to policy- and decision-makers, ecosystem and protected area managers, scientists and citizens tailored to their specific needs and requirements.

User engagement

GEO-Wetlands will strengthen the cross-cutting coordination of global wetland observation by involving key stakeholders on different levels, from different regions, and from all sectors (science, industry, policy) in a user-needs driven framework. This will ensure that GEO-Wetlands’ objectives and tasks are in line with the broad communities’ needs and carried out in an efficient and targeted approach. The engagement of these stakeholders in the GEO-Wetlands Initiative will help to secure long-term funding and to establish a GEO-Wetlands office that allows sustained development, maintenance and provision of the GWOS and all related services. The establishment of a structured GEO-Wetlands Community of Practice will help to engage and coordinate this diverse community.

Future plans

The GEO-Wetlands Initiative aims to ensure long-term sustainability by converting the ownership and governance structure from the current project level to a more sustainable longer term common governance structure using available project resources and in-kind stakeholder contributions. Furthermore, it will establish collaboration with other ongoing initiatives and engage with the broader wetlands community.


Budgets of contributing projects that either directly or indirectly feed into GEO-Wetlands:

  • SWOS: €4,979,189.36  (2015-2018);
  • GlobWetland-Africa: €1,500,000.00  (2015-2018);
  • DeMo-Wetlands: €346,622.93 (2016-2019);
  • Wetland-Radar: €265,000.00 (2016-2018);

In total this sums up to a budget of €7,143,812.40 for the 2015-2019 period. The 2015-2016 budgets of these projects already strongly contributed to the initiation of GEO-Wetlands and to the development of tools, products and infrastructure that will directly feed into GEO-Wetlands and the GWOS development.

In addition to this direct budget, the co-leads and contributors listed below all make significant in-kind contributions by taking responsibility for carrying out specific GEO-Wetlands tasks. The broader GEO-Wetlands Community of Practice and targeted working groups will further contribute to this. These in-kind contributions cover management and coordination, report and document preparation, technical and scientific developments, capacity building, communication and dissemination until a more permanent GEO-Wetlands office is set up. One of the main tasks for the initial GEO-Wetlands phase will be the mobilization of additional resources for the establishment this office.



Members: Denmark, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, UK.

Participating Organizations: ESA, UNEP-WCMC.

Others: International Water Management Institute (IWMI).

Linkages across the Work Programme

Flagships: GEO BON

Initiatives: Earth Observations in Service of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Initiative; GEO ECO; GEOGLOWS.

Community Activities: Aquawatch.

Leadership & Contributors (this list is being populated)




Implementing Entity



Adrian Strauch


University of Bonn


Lammert Hilarides


Wetland International


Ania Grobicki