Information about the about the geographic extent, status (eg., land cover, hydrology, biodiversity), and use of these wetlands is scattered, difficult to locate, and more difficult to incorporate into multidisciplinary analyses that can inform conservation and management strategies. To address this problem, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands has proposed the development of a Global Wetland Observing System (GWOS) – a network and portal for organizing information on wetlands and their wise use. This will be based on collaboration, data and analyses from relevant earth observation programs and agencies, academic institutions and NGOs. The concept of the GWOS fits closely with objectives of GEO BON, the Group on Earth Observations - Biodiversity Observation Network, to build global observations systems for biodiversity.
Applications of the GWOS will be diverse. Among them, Ramsar intends to use the data network for producing reports on The State of the World’s Wetlands and their Ecosystem Services. Conservation International has proposed using the GWOS as a source of data for a tool, the Watershed Health Index, which will measure the health of watersheds in terms of how well they provide a range of ecosystem services to human communities. The GWOS will provide useful information to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) as well as the Intergovernmental Science-policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).
At the Knowledge Café we will discuss the priorities for design and management of the GWOS, and the likely applications and user needs for GWOS. We will use the Knowledge Café to bring in new expertise and perspectives to the development of the GWOS. The discussion group will include representatives from diverse potential users, who can ensure that the GWOS effectively covers the ecological, biophysical, and socio-economic characteristics of freshwater ecosystems.