2,000 Ramsar Sites worldwide!

160 Contracting Parties to the Convention have identified and placed 2,000 exceptional wetlands onto the List of Wetlands of International Importance. Presently, these 2,000 Ramsar Sites, covering almost 200,000,000 hectares, constitute the largest network of protected areas in the world.

Focus on quality, not just quantity

Parties have made a further commitment to ensure the conservation and wise use of their Ramsar Sites in order to maintain the full range of benefits that the wetlands can provide for people (e.g., livelihoods, health, culture) and the environment (e.g., in supporting biodiversity). Potential Ramsar Sites are carefully examined for designation under the Convention by referring to the 9 Criteria set to identify Wetlands of International Importance.

The Secretariat has selected four recent designations in all regions of the world to show the beauty and uniqueness of wetlands.

1. Hydrological value and sustainable livelihoods in Tram Chim National Park – Viet Nam

With over 7,000 ha of grassland and Melaleuca forest, Tram Chim National Park is one of the last natural ecosystems of the Mekong Delta. Home to species such as the Eastern Sarus Crane Grus antigone sharpii, the site supports more than 20,000 waterbirds in the dry season. Located in Dong Thap province, the site acts as a natural reservoir that helps to regulate and maintain the hydrological rhythm of the entire Delta area.

Melaleuca and grassland in Tram Chim Ramsar Site © Mr. Nguyen Van Hung

During the wet season, the Mekong floodwaters spill over the bank and inundate the whole site. The water is then slowly released back into the Mekong as the flood recedes, helping to reduce the risk of flooding in the downstream areas. The site also contributes to the recharge of the local and regional aquifers.

Opened Lotus swamp in the inundated forest © Mr. Nguyen Van Hung

The natural resources within the park contribute to the livelihood of 80% of the local population, e.g. by providing grass for fodder, trees for fuel woods, and most importantly fish, which is the main source of protein for the people. The site is one of the very few places in the region where Brownbeard Rice (Oryza rufipogon) communities survive. Since 2006, the local authorities have initiated several small-scale education and public awareness activities mainly targeted at the local communities. Community development and poverty alleviation activities are being implemented in the buffer zone of the park, including the provision of credit loan facilities, planting of Melaleuca forest, integrated farming extension, and training in land use planning and administration.

2. Restoration and ecotourism projects in Haapsalu Noarootsi – Estonia

Situated on the northwestern coast of the Baltic Sea, Haapsalu is important as a wintering, staging, moulting and breeding site for 225 different bird species. Active management of the habitat and restoration of 100 ha of coastal meadows resulted in over 10,000 Barnacle Geese (Branta leucopsis) using the site as a stop-over during the spring and autumn migration. Haapsalu Bay has also become one of the most important spring migration staging areas of the globally endangered Lesser White-fronted Goose (Anser erythropus).

© Mr Ivar Ojaste© Mr Ivar Ojaste

Two conservation projects have recently been carried out in the site, restoring valuable habitats and enhancing ecotourism facilities. Because educational and interpretative activities in wetlands are a part of a rich tourism experience that should support local cultural values, a Nature Information Centre has been set up in Haapsalu, and the site can be visited for hiking, bird watching, camping and boat trips. Including wetland-related landscapes in tourism promotion activities is an important part of communicating the value of wetlands and Ramsar Sites worldwide.

Visitors' walkway © Mr Tiit Sillaots

3. Cultural and spiritual legacy in Kakagon & Bad River Sloughs – USA

Located within the boundaries of a tribal reservation, the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians, Kakagon & Bad River Sloughs is the largest and possibly most pristine wetland around Lake Superior — the largest freshwater lake in the world. It is from its sloughs that numerous generations of Chippewa have been able to sustain life through the harvesting of wild rice. According to their migration story, they had to “find the place where food grows on top of the water and settle there”.

Aerial view of the site © Jim Meeker

The Wisconsin Natural Heritage Programme rates the biological diversity of the site as B1 (Outstanding significance) and the Wisconsin Wetlands Association identified Kakagon & Bad River Sloughs as the number one ranked-priority site in the state for designation as a Ramsar Site. The local Bad River Band practices wetland conservation as part of its ancestral tradition, a perfect example of the interdependence between man and his environment. A lesson proving that healthy wetlands mean healthy people and sustainable livelihoods.

Young eagle in Sloughs © Bad River Natural Resources DepartmentIndians using ricing sticks to thresh the kernels into their canoes ©Tim Tynan

» View two videos on Kakagon & Bad  River Sloughs  (source: Tim Tynan) 

4. Historical value and respect for local traditions in Kerkennah Islands – Tunisia

The Kerkennah islands played an important role in the history of ancient Mediterranean civilizations due to their strategic location. Relatively untouched by modernization with a moderately developed tourism sector, Kerkennah Islands are a significant wintering ground for migrating birds including waterbirds and shoreline bird species. The tufts of Neptune Grass, Posidonia oceanica, covering the area play an important role in maintaining biodiversity as they supply oxygen and shelter for many vertebrate and invertebrate species, including aquatic species such as fish, bivalves and gastropods and others.

The site and surroundings are an important fishing area and the islanders rely on artisanal fishing, best represented by a local traditional method called charfias, using arrays of traps built from palm leaves. Potential threats include the presence of large phosphate producing industries, but it is expected that the management plan, legal steps, and creation of a marine protected area will improve the situation.

Photos: Courtesy of Parker/WWF-Canon

Benefits of a designation

Contracting Parties report that the overall health of their Ramsar Sites is better than that of wetlands generally.

Ramsar Site managers report that designation has helped them maintain the conservation status of wetlands listed as Ramsar Sites in many ways, including:

  • increased public awareness about the importance of the sites,
  • increase participation by local stakeholders in management,
  • greater support for protection of the site and surrounding (buffer) areas,
  • increased conservation funding (both domestic and international), and
  • enhanced opportunities for promoting scientific research and ecotourism.

At a higher level, designating and sustainably managing Ramsar Sites contributes to the Ramsar’s Convention’s lead implementation role for wetlands to the Aichi biodiversity targets of the 2011-2020 Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, adopted at the CBD COP in 2010.

Useful links:

» List of Ramsar Sites worldwide.

» New dynamic and interactive tools to showcase Ramsar Sites. See full article here.

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Number of » Contracting Parties: 168 Sites designated for the
» List of Wetlands of
International Importance
2,186 Total surface area of designated sites (hectares): 208,674,247

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