UK to discuss wetland conservation

The UK branch of the Ramsar Wetland Conservation Committee will meet next week to discuss their response to a brand new version of the Convention’s Strategic Plan for 2003-2008.

The new plan lays out a number of objectives and aims of the Convention, on which each country is being asked to draw up “provisional national targets”. These include the development and use of measures to ensure wise use of wetlands; the development of a list of wetlands of international importance; and to foster international co-operation.

The 131 Contracting parties to the Ramsar Convention, including Argentina, Mexico, Zambia and Albania, have just been sent a copy of the new Strategic Plan. They’ve been asked to consult with all relevant sectors of both government and non-governmental organisations in order to produce final inputs for discussion at the 8th Meeting of Contracting Parties, to be held later this year in Valencia, Spain.

These targets are to be reported back to Ramsar Convention Bureau staff who will then be able to build realistic global targets for all the actions called for and complete the draft Convention Work Plan 2003-2005 in time for presentation in Valencia in November.

The official aims of the convention are “the conservation and wise use of wetlands by national and international cooperation as a means of achieving sustainable development throughout the world.” Adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971, Contracing Parties to the Ramsar convention have established 1150 protected wetland sites covering around 96.3 millions hectares.

The UK is a key funding body for the Convention, and currently has over 140 designated Ramsar sites covering an area of over 750,000 hectares.

“The feedback and level of commitment for Ramsar from the UK so far has been incredibly positive,” Gail Bryant from the European Wildlife Division of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), and a member of the UK Ramsar told edie. The UK group will meet next week and Bryant is highly optimistic that they will be able to realize all the targets set out by the new plan. The meeting is also to include a special presentation that will aim to increase the level awareness of all members of the UK Ramsar Group about the overall objectives, methods and outcomes of the Convention.

Contracting parties to the Ramsar Convention commit themselves to designating at least one site to be included on the “Ramsar List” otherwise known as the List of Wetlands of International Importance. Management of these sites must then be carried out to maintain the particular ecological characters of each one. In addition to this, contracting countries are required to include wetland conservation in their national land-use planning strategies and to establish nature reserves on wetlands.

According to the draft strategic plan, threats that wetlands currently face include climate change, globalisation of trade such as in products such as fish and other natural resources, and land use pressures. Examples of Ramsar wetlands include Wiken Fen in the UK and Booby Pond Rookery in the Cayman Islands.

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