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In physical geography, wetland is a marshy area that may dry out during parts of the year. Wetlands support a wide variety of wildlife (bird, plants, fish, mammals etc) that cannot function well (or at all) without wetlands. By absorbing the force of strong winds and tides, wetlands also protect the drier areas adjoining them from storms, floods, and tidal damage. Freshwater marshes are often on river floodplains which are risky places to build.

Wetlands are often filled in to be used for everything from agriculture to parking lots, in part because the economic value of wetlands has only been recognised recently: the shrimp and fish that breed in saltwater marshes are generally harvested in deeper water, for example.

The conservation of wetlands is of prime importance for the preservation of many species of wildlife, and in 1962, the idea of wetlands conservation was born with a "List of Wetlands of International Importance". This was followed up in 1971 by the Ramsar Convention when conservationists from 23 countries met in the city of Ramsar[?], Iran on the shores of the Caspian Sea. There are now over 1,200 wetlands on the Ramsar List[?].

See also: United Nations Convention signatories, Wetlands International[?], The Broads National Park, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, Somerset Levels

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