Establishment and Protection of Wetlands and Other Fragile Ecosystems
Legislation should be enacted to protect wetlands against disturbance and destruction. Again, the principle of "avoid, minimize, compensate" should be used in permitting processes, which should identify wetland areas and provide for their maintenance. Damaging a wetland should always be a last resort and should be compensated for by the construction of another wetland or by paying the appropriate government to build or improve another wetland elsewhere. (See this page for this concept's application to riparian areas).
In areas where wetlands have been historically depleted, wetland reestablishment should be considered and economic incentives such as tax breaks could be offered to encourage it. These projects should be carefully planned, and it should be noted that reestablished or created wetlands may not serve the same ecological functions as natural wetlands.
Special attention should be given to wetlands that are unique, host rare species, or perform important functions. An example of this type of prioritization can be seen in the Ramsar Convention's Wetlands of International Importance list.
A similar tactic should be employed for coral reef protection, especially with regards to regulation of destructive practices. Coral reefs should be given top priority in terms of aquatic resource protection. Educational efforts should also be expended to encourage public support for coral reef protection; education in this sector should be effective considering the immense beauty and intrinsic value of these areas. Other unique and critical habitats should be afforded specific legislative protection as well.
Visitors to these unique ecosystems may be a source of income and also may make protection of these ecosystems easier, as tourism will increase public knowledge of and support for their existence. For coral reefs in the Florida Keys, the economic benefit derived from tourism is valued at $7.6 billion (Johns et al, 2001). The subsidy of ecologically friendly tourism ventures in these areas should be considered as a way to increase public interest in this area. Regulations should be in place, however, to ensure that ecological harm does not occur due to increased human and boat traffic.