36th Meeting of the Ramsar

14/01/2008
CONVENTION ON WETLANDS (Ramsar, Iran, 1971)
36th Meeting of the Standing Committee
Gland, Switzerland, 25-29 February 2008
Agenda item 5
DOC. SC36-3

Report of the Chair of the Scientific and Technical Review Panel

Action requested: The Standing Committee is invited to note the progress of the work of the Panel during 2007 and to respond as appropriate to issues raised by the STRP Chair.

Introduction

1. This report covers the second year of the work of the Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP) under its 2006-2008 Work Plan.

2. The Panel continues to work intersessionally largely electronically through the STRP Support Service (SuSe) Web site. During this period, however, the Panel and its Working Groups have also held several face-to-face meetings and workshops to progress their priority tasks. These have included:

i) The mid-term working meeting of all STRP Working Groups, 26-30 March 2007 in Gland, Switzerland;
ii) A joint STRP and CBD and Ramsar Secretariats' expert meeting in Gland in March 2007 on "Wetlands, water, biodiversity and climate change" (for further information see DOC. SC36-12);
iii) A meeting of European STRP-NFPs held in Austria from 17-19 September 2007; and
iv) An intersessional scientific and technical meeting on "Healthy Wetlands, Healthy People" in Changwon, Republic of Korea, in November 2007, to address the review and development of the Panel's Wetlands and Human Health technical report and guidance on Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI).

3. The last three of these meetings were made possible through the generosity respectively of Canada (through the CBD Secretariat), Austria, and the Republic of Korea, which the Panel gratefully acknowledges.

4. In addition, various smaller technical working meetings were held during 2007 by task groups in relation to individual tasks in the STRP work programme.

5. The 14th plenary meeting of the STRP will be held in Gland from 28 January to 1 February 2008.

Work Plan progress and further implementation

6. A summary of the progress to December 2007 and anticipated outputs for each of the STRP's Immediate, High and Lower Priority tasks in the current work plan is provided in the Annex to this paper. A list of anticipated STRP scientific and technical products for COP10 consideration and other products from its work plan is provided in DOC. SC36-08.

7. Funding and resources have been sufficient to enable all of the Immediate Priority tasks in the Work Plan to be initiated in this triennium, along with several of the High Priority tasks, as indicated in the Annex. The STRP is particularly grateful to the government of Sweden for its financial support to this work. In addition, aspects of this progress, including on some Lower Priority tasks, have been made possible through a significant amount of task-related work being undertaken by Panel members, IOPs and observers on a pro bono basis.

8. Further work to complete a number of current STRP tasks will continue after STRP14, both to finalise those to be submitted to SC37 and COP10, and throughout the year on a number of Ramsar Technical Reports.

Evaluation of the utility of the Convention's scientific and technical guidance (Resolutions & Handbooks)

9. One particularly significant aspect of the STRP's current work is proving to be the evaluation of the use, utility and availability of Ramsar's scientific and technical guidance (STRP task 3). This work speaks to aspects of Resolution VIII.45 as well as contributing intelligence to several other of STRP's current tasks, notably task 52 on data and information needs review. A detailed draft report from the STRP's expert consultant, based on a questionnaire survey of Convention national focal points, IOPs, wetland managers and others, is now in hand and will be considered in-depth during STRP14.

10. The draft report identifies a number of important issues for the Convention concerning who knows about and uses the guidance and which guidance they find most (and least) useful. The report's findings will help shape STRP's recommendations to Standing Committee and COP concerning the type and style of any further guidances it may be asked to prepare.

11. The report also reveals that not all those in the Ramsar family who should be aware of, and be using, the suite of Wise Use guidance appear to be so, and also that the guidance is apparently not generally being widely circulated by focal points to other user groups such as wetland managers who should be utilizing it. In addition it is of concern that the response rate to this survey from Administrative Authority contact points and CEPA and STRP National Focal Points, requested as a high priority by Parties at COP9, was poor - only 10% of STRP NFPs responded. Furthermore, the questionnaire failed to reach 9% of Convention's contacts and focal points because of non-functional email addresses.

Regional networking - engaging involvement of STRP National Focal Points

12. The STRP is continuing to place high priority on this aspect of its work through the efforts of its Working Group 9 on regional networking. In this respect, the meeting of European STRP NFPs hosted by Austria was most valuable, and consideration is being given to holding similar such meetings, resources permitting, in other regions. The recommendations of the European meeting will be considered by Working Group 9 during STRP14. Although an increasing number of STRP NFPs are in contact with the appointed regional network members of the Panel and are engaging in aspects of the Panel's work, it nevertheless remains a concern that regional network members are continuing to find it hard to even establish communication with a significant number of such NFPs.

Issues concerning the operations of the Panel under its revised COP9 modus operandi

13. The Panel, observers, and IOPs continue to work closely together, with valuable contributions from all involved, and the STRP Oversight Committee continues to be a most helpful aspect of the Panel's modus operandi. The revised modus operandi adopted by COP9 continues to serve us very well, providing clarity regarding priority tasks as well as the flexibility to address new issues as they emerge, depending on available resources. Some possible minor adjustments to the current modus operandi will be discussed at STRP14 for recommendation to Standing Committee and COP10. These are not anticipated to be substantive changes, but rather will be aimed at further optimizing the efficiency and administration of STRP processes.

Emerging scientific and technical issues

14. One of the key roles of the Panel under its current modus operandi is to keep under review and identify emerging issues that it considers should be addressed by the Convention. Discussion at STRP13 on such matters focused on the recognition that there have been significant new developments since Ramsar COP8 regarding wetlands and climate change and the adoption of Resolution VIII.3, and the Panel has recommended that the issue be brought back onto the Convention's agenda in the near future. This and other emerging issues were further considered during the mid-term workshops. More detailed advice will be provided on these issues following further discussions and updates at STRP14, but some brief comments are provided below.

15. Progress on some specific on-going and emerging issues in 2007 includes:

15.1 Earth Observation and wetlands. The Panel has continued to take a keen interest in the actual and potential role of Earth Observation (EO, remote sensing) to support various aspects of Convention implementation, from supporting managers at the site scale to providing global scale wetland status and trend information. The conclusions of the "GlobWetland Symposium" jointly held in late 2006 by the European Space Agency (ESA) and Ramsar were finalized. A symposium proceedings volume has been produced by ESA, and selected papers from the Symposium are being published in the scientific journal Journal of Environmental Management. This includes an overview paper drawing on the results and recommendations of the Symposium, jointly authored by STRP members and observers Heather MacKay, Max Finlayson, Dave Pritchard, Lisa Rebelo (ESA), and Ramsar's Deputy Secretary General.

The conclusions support the increasing recognition of the interconnectedness of multi-scalar wetland inventory, EO and climate change in the light of the findings of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA). In addition, calls for collaboration with other conventions and MEAs are increasing the need for global and regional scale wetland-related information. This has led to increased emphasis within the STRP on global and regional-scale inventory and monitoring efforts, which will be discussed in a special session during STRP14 concerning "global wetland observing systems", which will involve experts from a number of space agencies and existing observing system initiatives.

15.2 Climate change and wetlands. An additional thematic work area has been established by the Panel on "Wetlands and Climate Change" led by the STRP Chair, in recognition of the major developments which have taken place in this field since COP8 and the adoption of Resolution VIII.3. Some initial work is being undertaken for discussion at STRP14, and the Panel will be developing the scope, terms of reference, and priority tasks for this work area, in preparation for proposing a more comprehensive suite of activities in the coming triennium. Further information on this topic is provided in DOC. SC36-12.

15.3 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI). The intersessional technical meeting in Changwon, Republic of Korea, in November 2007 brought together key experts on HPAI, wetlands and waterbirds, and this has allowed the Panel to make substantial progress on, amongst other issues, developing further technical guidance related to highly pathogenic avian influenza in relation to its task 62 on "Responding to Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza". Further information on this work, and what the Panel anticipates bring forward to SC37 for COP10 consideration, is provided in DOC. SC36-09.

15.4 Wetlands and mining/extractive industries. This topic was raised as an emerging issue at STRP's mid-term workshops, in the light of an increasing number of requests for advice on such matters being received from Parties by the Secretariat. A briefing paper was prepared for the STRP on wetlands and mining/extractive industries - this was presented at the Africa regional meeting, in order to support discussion of this topic by African Parties, and will be further considered at STRP14. Further information on this issue is provided in DOC. SC36-13.

16. In conclusion, the Panel will continue to keep such issues under review, and will seek to respond, as appropriate, to other emerging issues.

Annex

STRP Work Plan 2006-2008 - progress review, December 2007 (PDF)

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