The ecological category of wetland is very recent and it came into use only in the second half of the last century, when the dramatic loss of wet landscapes caused by the worldwide activity of draining and reclamation started to be perceived as a emergent political problem in ecology and environmental sustainability. Since then wetlands are being restored and artificially constructed, and everywhere in the world there is growing interest in these ecosystems as they are thought to play vital roles of maintenance and recovery of the global biome.
In spite of this awareness, the notion of wetland is highly problematic: it is not self-evident what constitutes wetlands as they are, by definition, transitional environments. This transitionality places crucial problems on wetland management and conservation, and entails a variety of actions that need to be carried out in order to define and maintain wetlands. This involves a politically engaged judgement that reflects global environmental policies, ethics, and knowledge—often in contrast with local use and understanding of specific wetlands. Wetland science and conservation, the "Art of defining" wetlands and the politics of it, are indeed deeply connected.
Through ethnographic, scientific, and historical materials the projects looks at the intersection of landscape ethics and aesthetics, and at the role these have played in defining the category of wetland as a specific kind of ecosystem worth conserving and restoring. In doing so it explores the understudied history of wetland conservation in the wider fields of conservation science and environmentalism.