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Wetlands in Yichang, Hubei province. [Photo/VCG]

More than 600 people from home and abroad on Friday celebrated World Wetlands Day in Haikou, capital of Hainan province, the primary venue for this year"s annual celebration.

The day is held to highlight the value of wetlands and to reflect on how to better harness the natural power of the ecosystem, while coping with climate change.

A white paper on the condition of China"s wetlands of international importance (Ramsar sites) was published at the gathering.

Ramsar site certificates were awarded to eight Chinese sites, designating them as important international wetlands, while accreditation certificates were given to 16 national wetland parks.

Haikou, Shanghai and Guangzhou were honored for their outstanding efforts in ecological conservation.

"Although wetlands support and help our lives, more than a third of all our wetlands were lost in just 45 years. Today wetlands are disappearing three times faster than forests," said Reiko Litsuka, senior advisor for Asia-Oceania, secretariat of Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

China has attempted to highlight the role of wetlands in mitigating or adapting to climate change.

The National Forestry and Grassland Administration in 2016 agreed upon a number of key actions for the forestry sector in tackling climate change from 2016 to 2020, in a bid to translate China"s strategic plans for climate change into tangible conservation practices.

"China has designated 57 sites as important international wetlands, established more than 600 wetland natural reserves and 1000-plus wetland parks around the country, with the national protection rate reaching 49 percent,"said Li Chunliang, deputy director general of the national administration.

At local level Haikou was honored as one of the first international wetland cities at the 13th Conference of the Parties to the International Convention on Wetlands, held in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, in October last year.

This was considered international recognition of Haikou"s ecological protection efforts in recent years.

The city has practiced the concept that "green water and green mountains are golden mountains and silver mountains", according to Ding Hui, mayor of Haikou.

"The benefits from wetlands are clear. China and Haikou city have been showing leading initiatives that need to be urgently amplified," said Reiko Litsuka.

"We can all contribute to reversing the loss of wetlands, so that we continue to benefit from the critical services they provide to nature and people," she added.