The 9th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties

29/06/2005


"Wetlands and water: supporting life, sustaining livelihoods"
9th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties
to the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971)
Kampala, Uganda, 8-15 November 2005
Agenda item IX
Ramsar COP9 DR 1 Annex B

Revised Strategic Framework and guidelines for the future development of the List of Wetlands of International Importance

(see also COP9 DOC. 17, "Rationale for the proposed changes to the Strategic Framework and guidelines for the selection of Ramsar sites")

Explanatory Note by the Secretariat

1. In response to Action 17.1.5 of the Ramsar Strategic Plan 2003-2008, charges to the Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP) in COP8 Resolution VIII.10, and requests from the 7th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in relation to Ramsar/CBD joint work on inland waters (Decision VI/4) and coastal and marine ecosystems, the STRP had a number of related tasks identified as priorities for its 2003-2005 Work Plan concerning further development of the Criteria and guidelines for Ramsar site designation.

2. STRP's Working Group 4 has undertaken the work on these and related issues. The Working Group this triennium has focused on the required rolling review of the Ramsar Criteria for identifying Wetlands of International Importance to ensure that these reflect global wetland conservation and wise use priorities, in particular concerning:

i. additional guidance for the application of aspects of Criteria 5 and 6 for waterbirds;
ii. developing a quantitative Criterion (Criterion 9) for non-avian wetland-dependent animal species;
iii. incorporation of mechanisms for the recognition of the importance of the full range of wetland ecosystem services of wetlands within the application of the Criteria; and
iv. expansion of the suite of Ramsar Criteria and guidelines to achieve consistency with the CBD's Annex I of aspects of biological diversity (a task which has been met through the work on aspects i. to iii. above).

3. To address these, the STRP has prepared proposals for amendments to the Strategic Framework and guidelines for the future development of the List of Wetlands of International Importance adopted by Resolution VII.11 as amended by Resolutions VII.13, VIII.11 and VIII.33 and their annexes. These are contained in the present document.

4. In order to assist Contracting Parties at COP9, the STRP has prepared an Information Paper (COP9 DOC. 17) which sets out the rationale behind each of Panel's main proposals for amendments to the Strategic Framework. In addition, as further background STRP's Working Group 4 is preparing a review of the history and development of the quantitative Ramsar Criteria, from their inception in the early days of the Convention, which will be published as a Ramsar Technical Report.

5. COP8 instructed the Ramsar Secretariat to consolidate the additional COP8 guidance into the original Strategic Framework adopted by COP7, and this was done as Ramsar Wise Use Handbook 7 (2nd edition), "Designating Ramsar sites". The numbering of sections and paragraphs in the attached COP9 DR1 Annex D refers to those in Handbook 7, 2nd edition.

6. The Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP) has identified a number of other parts of the current Strategic Framework which will need to be factually amended or updated, a) consequent on the adoption of other COP9 draft Resolutions and guidance (notably COP9 DR1 Annex A, and b) where there are time-limited references and contexts which have been superseded (e.g., reference to specific former IUCN Red List assessments).

7. The proposed adoption of new Criterion 9 will mean that a subsequent minor amendment to the current Information Sheet on Ramsar Wetlands (RIS) will be needed to incorporate this.

8. Actions instructing the Ramsar Secretariat to make the further changes to the Strategic Framework necessary following the adoption of this and other COP9 Resolutions, including sequential renumbering of paragraphs, are included in COP9 DR1 and Annex 1 to COP9 DR2 ("Future scientific and technical implementation of the Convention").

9. Contracting Parties may wish to note that in preparing its proposed amendments to the Strategic Framework, the STRP has found that the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment's (MA) Conceptual Framework, its description of ecosystem services, and its use as a basis for developing updated definitions of "wise use" and "ecological character" (see COP9 DR1 Annex A and COP9 DOC. 16) have proved of considerable assistance.

10. In relation to Criterion 1, the STRP was asked, through Resolution VIII.10 and CBD Decision VI/4, to establish ways and means of reflecting, inter alia, the cultural and socio-economic importance of wetlands in the suite of Ramsar Criteria. In reviewing this issue, the Panel recognized that the current guidelines for the application of Criterion 1 cover some hydrological regulating services, but not all types of ecosystem services recognized in the MA's Conceptual Framework. In the light of this, the Panel has concluded that it is most logical and appropriate to expand the Criterion 1 guidelines in order to cover all types of ecosystem service (sensu MA) - provisioning, regulating, cultural and supporting - rather than seeking to establishing additional separate Criteria.

11. Concerning the proposed new Criterion 9, the STRP has agreed a procedure for establishing a list of population estimates of non-avian wetland-dependent fauna and mega-fauna and updating it in future via the IUCN's Web-based Species Information Service (SIS) (Decision STRP12-25). A first listing is currently in preparation for publication as a Ramsar Technical Report, and may be available by the time of COP9. The Standing Committee may wish to note that this procedure is analogous with that undertaken by Wetlands International for waterbird populations and 1% thresholds for the application of Criterion 6, through the publication of the regularly-updated Waterbird Population Estimates, a 4th edition of which is expected to be available by the time of COP9.

12. In relation to the STRP's response to the calls in Ramsar Resolution VIII.10 and CBD Decision VII/4 concerning the elaboration of the Ramsar Criteria and guidelines in order to achieve more comprehensive coverage of components of biological diversity, the CBD Secretariat, working with the STRP and Ramsar Secretariat, has prepared a paper on these matters for consideration by CBD SBSTTA11 when it meets in late November 2005. The paper (UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA11/13) reports that proposed amendments to the Strategic Framework in COP9 DR1 Annex B successfully address the requested expansion of such coverage.

13. CBD Decision VII/4 also requested the SBSTTA to provide input to these aspects of the STRP's work. Given the relative timings of Ramsar COP9 and CBD SBSTTA11 (which follows shortly afterwards), it is intended that the CBD Secretariat will forward this COP9 DR1 Annex B to its CBD/SBSTTA national focal points, and will invite the focal points to transmit any comments they may have to their respective Ramsar national focal point in the Ramsar Administrative Authority, so that these can be incorporated, as appropriate, into COP9 considerations. A verbal update on COP9's decisions on COP9 DR1 Annex B will be made to CBD SBSTTA11 in relation to any recommendations SBSTTA may wish to make on this matter to the next CBD Conference of Parties (in 2006).

14. COP9 DR1 invites Contracting Parties to approve the revised Strategic Framework and instructs the Ramsar Secretariat to introduce the changes into a new edition of Ramsar Wise Use Handbook 7.

COP9 DR1 Annex B

Revised Strategic Framework and guidelines for the future development of the List of Wetlands of International Importance

Explanatory note on the presentation of the proposed revisions for COP9 consideration:

i. The text below contains only those sections or paragraphs of the Strategic Framework and guidelines for the future development of the List of Wetlands of International Importance for which significant amendments or additions are proposed.

ii. Where a text amendment is proposed, the original text is shown with strikethrough [bold italics here], thus: example text for deletion; and proposed replacement text is shown in square brackets, thus: [example text for insertion].

iii. Explanatory text indicating the type of change proposed is indicated in the text below in grey-tinted text [here, boxed]. These explanatory texts are not being proposed for adoption by Parties at COP9.

iv. Where the insertion of additional paragraphs of text is proposed, these are numbered A1; A2, A3 … etc. for ease of reference.

v. Section and paragraph numbering is that of the Ramsar Wise Use Handbook 7 (2nd Edition), which provides the consolidated version of the Strategic Framework as amended by COP7 and COP8 Resolutions. This is available at http://www.ramsar.org/lib/lib_handbooks_e.htm

II. The vision, objectives and short-term target for the List of Wetlands of International Importance (the Ramsar List)

Modify, as follows, the Vision for the List in the light of the updated definition of "ecological character" in [COP9 DR1 - Annex A]

The vision

To develop and maintain an international network of wetlands which are important for the conservation of global biological diversity and for sustaining human life through the maintenance of their ecological and hydrological functions [ecosystem components, processes and services] they perform.
Delete the "target for the Ramsar List to the year 2005" (box following current paragraph 21) and replace with 2010-related target adopted by COP8 Resolution VIII.26 or any further amendment to this target adopted by COP9:

[To ensure that the List of Wetlands of International Importance contains at least 2,500 sites covering 250 million hectares by 2010.]

IV. Guidelines for adopting a systematic approach to identifying priority wetlands for designation under the Ramsar Convention

Add additional guidance after current paragraph 45:

A1. Ensure that out of sight is not out of mind. Fish are not only an integral part of aquatic ecosystems, but are a vital source of food and income for people throughout the world. However, the production of fisheries in many parts of the world is declining as a consequence of unsustainable harvest regimes and the loss and degradation of habitats including spawning and nursery areas. Underwater species such as fish and other aquatic fauna and flora can often be overlooked in the development of cases for Ramsar site designation, unlike more visible animals and plants. Such aquatic interests should be carefully and systematically reviewed.

Add additional guidance after current paragraph 51:

A2. Sites of importance for their ecosystem services. Wetlands exist within landscapes in which people's activities are influenced by the wetlands and their delivery of ecosystem services (supporting, provisioning, regulating and/or cultural), and in which the wetlands themselves are influenced by the use of such services by dependent local communities (e.g., by forms of traditional management). There are many examples where the ecological character of the wetland for which the site is selected as internationally important has developed as a result of cultural features or legacies. There are also many examples where the maintenance of the ecological character of wetlands depends upon the interaction between human activities and the wetland's biological, chemical, and physical components. In such cases, and where there is close dependency between the ecological character of a wetland and the importance of its services for human populations, such sites may be considered for selection under Criterion 1 in accordance with the more detailed guidance associated with this Criterion.

Move section IV.I (Guidelines for identifying and designating specific wetlands types) to follow section V, to improve readability and use of the Strategic Framework.

V. Criteria for identifying Wetlands of International Importance, guidelines for their application, and long-term targets

Amend Criterion 1 as follows:

Criterion 1

A wetland should be considered internationally important if it contains a representative, rare, or unique example of a natural or near- [most-]natural wetland type found within the appropriate biogeographic region.

Guidance for the application of Criterion 1

Add additional guidance after current paragraph 167:

A3. When selecting a biogeographic regionalisation scheme to apply, it is generally most appropriate to use a continental, regional, or supra-national scheme rather than a national or subnational one.

Amend current paragraph 168 as follows:

168. Objective 1 and, in particular 1.2 (paragraph 10 above), indicates that another consideration under this Criterion is to give priority to those wetlands which play a substantial hydrological, biological or ecological [whose ecological character plays a substantial] role in the natural functioning of a major river basin or coastal system."

Add additional guidance after current paragraph 168:

A4. A "most-natural" wetland should be considered internationally important if the maintenance of the ecological character of the site is dependent upon wise use [see COP9 DR1 - Annex A]. The ecological character of such sites relates to its provisioning, regulating, cultural or supporting ecosystem services (Box [XX]). These wetlands are likely to be sites that have, inter alia, one or more of the following general characteristics:

i. Sites where the provision of ecosystem services is of major importance in national contexts;
ii. Sites which directly support the sustainable livelihoods of significant numbers of people;
iii. Sites where the importance of the ecosystem services provided extends significantly beyond the borders of the site concerned (e.g., in terms of the role of the site within wider catchment or flyway contexts, the buffering of floods affecting downstream human populations, or the provision of water and food to human populations elsewhere);
iv. Sites which have recognised value as national and international models of wetland wise use, demonstrating the application of traditional knowledge and methods of management and use that maintain the ecological character of the wetland;
[v. Sites that have recognised value as national and international models where the ecological character is dependent upon an outstanding cultural heritage (movable and building heritage) related to wetland management (such as watermills, waterwheels, acequias, fuggaras, traditional irrigation systems, and salt pan infrastructures);]
[vi. Sites which have exceptional cultural traditions or records of former civilizations that have influenced the ecological character of the wetland;]
[vii. Sites with outstanding cultural landscapes as a result of interaction between human communities and ecosystems, and where ecological character of the wetland depends on the maintenance of the features of these landscapes;]
[viii. Sites which have outstanding examples representing major stages of earth's history, including geological and/or biological records or processes that can be used as examples for communication, education, and the raising of public awareness (for example, sites with a complete bio-stratigraphic Quaternary record);]
[ix. Sites where relevant intangible values are present and their existence is strongly linked with the maintenance of the ecological character of the wetland (for example, sacred sites or areas with major aesthetic values).]
Note. Issues concerning cultural services in new paragraph A4, sub-paragraphs v. to ix., are square-bracketed […] as they will be considered during COP9 Technical Session 2 "The role of wisely managing wetlands in alleviating poverty and promoting human well-being : culture and knowledge in wetland management".

Add new Box after new paragraph A3:

Box [XX]. Ecosystem services. Ecosystem services are the benefits people obtain from ecosystems. These include provisioning, regulating, and cultural services that directly affect people and supporting services needed to maintain the other services. (Adapted from Figure 2.1 of Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2003. Ecosystems and Human Well-being: A Framework for Assessment. Island Press, Washington, DC. xiv + 245 pp.)

Guidance for the application of Criterion 2

Amend current paragraph 171 as follows:

171. Ramsar sites have an important role in the conservation of globally threatened species and ecological communities. Notwithstanding the small numbers of individuals [or sites] that may be involved, or poor quality of quantitative data or information that may sometimes be available, particular consideration should be given to listing wetlands that support globally threatened [communities or] species at any stage of their life cycle using Criterion 2 or 3.

Amend current paragraph 172 as follows, so as to remove reference to Appendices II and III of CITES (since these list those species potentially endangered by trade rather than those whose conservation may necessarily be effectively pursued by site-based conservation measures).

172. General Objective 2.2 within this Strategic Framework urges Contracting Parties to seek to include in the Ramsar List wetlands that include threatened ecological communities or are critical to the survival of species identified as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered under national endangered species legislation/programmes or within international frameworks such as the IUCN Red Lists or the Appendices [Appendix I] of CITES and [the Appendices of] CMS.

Amend current paragraph 174 as follows:

174. For identifying [sites with] threatened ecological communities, greatest conservation value will be achieved through the selection of sites [with ecological communities] that have [one or more of] the following characteristics. They:

(i) include [are globally threatened communities or communities at risk from direct or indirect drivers of change] significant areas having certain communities, particularly where these are of high quality or particularly typical of the biogeographic region; and/or
(ii) are sites which have rare communities [within a biogeographic region]; and/or
(iii) include ecotones, seral stages, and communities which exemplify particular processes; and/or
(iv) have communities that can no longer develop under contemporary conditions (because of climate change or anthropogenic interference for example); and/or
(v) have communities [are] at the contemporary stage of a long developmental history and which support a well-preserved paleoenvironmental archive; and/or
(vi) are sites which have communities that are functionally critical to the survival of other (perhaps rarer) communities or particular species; and/or
(vii) contain communities which have been the subject of significant decline in extent or occurrence.
Add additional guidance after current paragraph 174:

A5. When selecting a biogeographic regionalisation scheme to apply under paragraph 174 (i) and/or (ii), it is generally most appropriate to use a continental, regional, or supra-national scheme rather than a national or subnational one.

Add additional guidance after current paragraph 175:

A6. Be aware also of the biological importance of many karst and other subterranean hydrological systems (see specific guidance below).

Guidelines for the application of Criterion 3

Add additional guidance after current paragraph 177:

A7. Be aware also of the biological importance of many karst and other subterranean hydrological systems (see specific guidance below).

A8. When selecting a biogeographic regionalisation scheme to apply, it is generally most appropriate to use a continental, regional, or supra-national scheme rather than a national or subnational one.

Guidelines for the application of Criterion 5

Add additional guidance after current paragraph 183:

A9. Criterion 5 should be applied not only to multi-species assemblages, but also to sites regularly holding more than 20,000 waterbirds of any one species.

A10. For populations of waterbirds of more than 2,000,000 individuals, a 1% threshold of 20,000 is adopted on the basis that sites holding this number are of importance under Criterion 5. To reflect the importance of the site for the species concerned, it is also appropriate to list such a site under Criterion 6.

Add additional guidance after current paragraph 184:

A11. Turnover of individuals, especially during migration periods, leads to more waterbirds using particular wetlands than are counted at any one point in time, such that the importance of such a wetland for supporting waterbird populations will often be greater than is apparent from simple census information.

A12. However, accurate estimation of turnover and total number of individuals of a population or population using a wetland is difficult, and several methods (e.g. cohort marking and resighting, or summing increases in a count time-series) which have at times been applied do not yield statistically reliable or accurate estimates.

A13. The only currently available method which is considered to provide reliable estimates of turnover is that of unique capture/marking and resighting/recapture of individually-marked birds in a population at a migratory staging site. But it is important to recognize that for this method to generate a reliable estimate of migration volume, its application usually requires significant capacity and resources, and for large and/or inaccessible staging areas (especially where birds in a population are widely dispersed) use of this method can present insuperable practical difficulties.

A14. When turnover is known to occur in a wetland but it is not possible to acquire accurate information on migration volume, Parties should continue to consider recognizing the importance of the wetland as a migratory staging area through the application of Criterion 4, as the basis of ensuring that their management planning for the site fully recognizes this importance.

Guidelines for the application of Criterion 6

Add additional guidance after current paragraph 188:

A15. At some sites, more than one biogeographical population of the same species can occur, especially during migration periods and/or where flyway systems of different populations intersect at major wetlands. Where such populations are indistinguishable in the field, as is usually the case, this can present practical problems as to which 1% threshold to apply. Where such mixed populations occur (and these are inseparable in the field) it is suggested that the larger 1% threshold be used in the evaluation of sites.

A16. However, particularly where one of the populations concerned is of high conservation status, this guidance should be applied flexibly and Parties should consider recognizing the overall importance of the wetland for both populations through the application of Criterion 4, as the basis of ensuring that their management planning for the site fully recognizes this importance. This guidance should not be applied to the detriment of smaller, high conservation status populations.

A17. Note that this guidance applies just during the period of population mixing (often, but not exclusively, this is during periods of migration). At other times, it is generally possible to assign a 1% threshold accurately to the single population that is present.

A18. Turnover of individuals, especially during migration periods, leads to more waterbirds using particular wetlands than are counted at any one point in time, such that the importance of such a wetland for supporting waterbird populations will often be greater than is apparent from simple census information. For further guidance on estimation of turnover see the guidance under Criterion 5, paragraphs A12-A14.

Add new Criterion and guidelines:

Specific criterion based on other taxa

Criterion 9:

A wetland should be considered internationally important if it regularly supports 1% of the individuals in a population of one species or subspecies of wetland-dependent non-avian animal species.

Long-term target for the Ramsar List:

A19. To have included in the Ramsar List all wetlands which regularly support 1% or more of a biogeographical population of one non-avian animal species or subspecies.

Guidelines for the application of Criterion 9

A20. When Contracting Parties are reviewing candidate sites for listing under this Criterion, greatest conservation value will be achieved through the selection of a suite of sites that hold populations of globally threatened species or subspecies. Refer also to paragraph [44] above, "Species presence in perspective", and paragraph [52] above, "Complementary international frameworks". Consideration may also be given to turnover of individuals of migratory animals at migration periods, so that a cumulative total is reached, if such data are available (see guidance in paragraphs [A11-A14] related to waterbirds which is also applicable to Criterion 9 in relation to non-avian animals).

A21. To ensure international comparability, where possible, Contracting Parties should use the most current international population estimates and 1% thresholds provided and regularly updated by IUCN's Specialist Groups though the IUCN Species Information Service (SIS) and published in the Ramsar Technical Report series, as the basis for evaluating sites for the List using this Criterion.

A22. This Criterion can also be applied to nationally endemic species or populations, where reliable national population size estimates exist. When making such an application of the Criterion, information concerning the published source of the population size estimate should be included in the justification for the application of this Criterion. Such information can also contribute to expanding the taxonomic coverage of the information on population estimates and 1% thresholds published in the Ramsar Technical Report series.

A23. It is anticipated that this Criterion will be applicable to populations and species in a range of non-avian taxa including, inter alia, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and aquatic macro-invertebrates. However, only species or subspecies for which reliable population estimates have been provided and published (paragraphs A21 and A22) should be included in the justification for the application of this Criterion. Where no such information exists, Contracting Parties should give consideration to designation for important non-avian animal species under Criterion 4. For better application of this Criterion, Contracting Parties should assist, where possible, in the supply of such data to the IUCN-Species Survival Commission and its Specialist Groups in support of the future updating and revision of international population estimates.

For reasons of economy, this document is printed in a limited number, and will not be distributed at the meeting. Delegates are requested to bring their copies to the meeting and not to request additional copies.

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