Large-scale wetland distributions and important wetland complexes, including areas of marsh, fen, peatland, and water

  • Source: McGill/WWF
  • Last update: -

This data set estimates large-scale wetland distributions and important wetland complexes, including areas of marsh, fen, peatland, and water (Lehner and Döll 2004). Large rivers are also included as wetlands (lotic wetlands); it is assumed that only a river with adjacent wetlands (floodplain) is wide enough to appear as a polygon on the coarse-scale source maps. Wetlands are a crucial part of natural infrastructure as they help protect water quality, hold excess flood water, stabilize shoreline, and help recharge groundwater (Beeson and Doyle 1995, Stuart and Edwards 2006). Limited by sources, the data set refers to lakes as permanent still-water bodies (lentic water bodies) without direct connection to the sea, including saline lakes and lagoons as lakes, while excluding intermittent or ephemeral water bodies. Lakes that are manmade are explicitly classified as reservoirs. The Global Lakes and Wetlands Database combines best available sources for lakes and wetlands on a global scale. This data set includes information on large lakes (area ≥ 50 km2) and reservoirs (storage capacity ≥ 0.5 km3), permanent open water bodies (surface area ≥ 0.1 km2), and maximum extent and types of wetlands. Resource Watch shows only a subset of the data set. For access to the full data set and additional information, see the Learn More link.

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Formal name

Global Lakes and Wetlands Database: Lakes and Wetlands Grid (Level 3)


The extent of wetlands and lakes may vary seasonally, and thus this data set may not match real-world extents. The data set provides an estimate of maximum extents of wetlands and identifies large-scale wetland distribution and important wetland complexes.

Suggested citation

Lehner, B. and Döll, P. 2004. "Development and validation of a global database of lakes, reservoirs and wetlands." Journal of Hydrology 296/1-4: 1-22. Accessed through Resource Watch, (date). www.resourcewatch.org.


McGill University (McGill)
World Wildlife Fund (WWF)

Geographic coverage


Spatial resolution

30 arc seconds

Date of content


Published language



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