IMCG's Resolution for the Ramsar Convention
At its Field Symposium in Kushiro, Japan, in September 1996, the International Mire Conservation Group adopted three resolutions for the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the Convention on Biological Diversity, and concerning World Heritage status respectively. Because of the Ramsar Convention's growing interest in peatland conservation, the Bureau is pleased to post the first of these resolutions here, with the "Kushiro Declaration" of which they are a part, courtesy of Richard Lindsay, IMCG chairman. A background note on the International Mire Conservation Group is appended to the end of the document.
THE KUSHIRO DECLARATION
In 1993 the City of Kushiro was host to the 5th Ramsar Conference of Contracting Parties. In the words of Dr Peter Bridgewater, who was to become the Chairman of the 6th Ramsar Conference, "The Kushiro Ramsar Conference was a landmark in the history of the Ramsar Convention. Never before have so many people come together for the common cause of wetlands conservation and wise use." Reflecting and reaffirming this view, a document called The Kushiro Statement was released at the end of the Conference. This Statement recognised the significance of wetland conservation, although there was no explicit reference to the conservation of mire systems under Ramsar. It did, however, acknowledge a clear link to the Convention on Biological Diversity.
At the 6th Ramsar Convention, hosted by Australia in March 1996, particular attention was drawn to the issues of mire conservation. A workshop focusing on this subject learned that, although mires represent more than 50% of all terrestrial and freshwater wetlands, only 6% of the land area protected under the Ramsar Convention was protected thus first and foremost because it was a mire ecosystem. Formal recognition of this problem, and an acceptance that Contracting Parties should do more for mire conservation around the world, was incorporated into the Ramsar Convention as Recommendation 6.1 The Conservation of Peatlands.
As part of its response to this undertaking, Japan has generously played host to the 7th biennial Field Symposium of the International Mire Conservation Group (IMCG) which is a worldwide network of mire (peatland) specialists who have a particular interest in the conservation of mire habitats, and many of whom are advisers to their governments on such issues. The Symposium has enabled mire specialists, drawn from some 17 countries around the world, to see for themselves the range of mire sites which occur in northern Japan, and to see the effectiveness of mire conservation programmes there, while also contributing IMCG's own international perspective to a number of issues. There has also been the opportunity to learn of the problems, and progress of conservation programmes, in other countries.
Following this extremely successful and productive Symposium, the IMCG:
AWARE of the considerable effort required to organise one of its Field Symposia;
CONSCIOUS of the great generosity extended to IMCG members by the organisers of the Symposium and by our various hosts during the course of the Symposium;
NOTING with interest the biogeographically distinctive character of the mires visited, but also by some of the similarities observed with, for example, mires in Europe and North America;
PROFOUNDLY IMPRESSED by the scale of mires such as Kushiro Mire, and the way in which they form whole natural landscapes with similar wilderness character to some of the great natural landscapes of the world, such as the Serengeti Plains;
ALSO IMPRESSED and encouraged by the way in which local communties clearly take an integral and active part in conservation programmes for their local mire ecosystems;
The IMCG therefore:
THANKS our Japanese hosts for their enormous generosity both before and during this Field Symposium;
CONGRATULATES the Japanese authorities on their establishment of effective programmes of mire conservation where public education and local involvement play as important a role as traditional conservation methods;
NOTES that, in a number of ways, the Japanese approach to mire conservation on many of its sites is a model to all nations possessing mire biotopes;
CONSCIOUS, nevertheless, that even in Japan, much work still needs to be done to meet the developing obligations of both the Ramsar Convention and the Convention on Biological Diversity;
The IMCG proposes to use its presence in Kushiro, a place so closely linked to international activities in wetland conservation, to make proposals to three international treaties or conventions relevant to mire conservation:
- The Kushiro Resolution for the Ramsar Convention
- The Kushiro Resolution for the Convention on Biological Diversity (not present here)
- The Kushiro Resolution Concerning World Heritage Status (not present here)
The Kushiro Resolution for the Ramsar Convention
Over 50% of all terrestrial and freshwater wetlands are mire ecosystems. They contain about 25 percent of all the world's soil carbon, which amounts to somewhere between 44 and 70 percent of carbon stored in biotic systems. This represents about four times the amount of carbon stored in the tropical rainforests. Mire systems occur all across the globe, including the tropics. They display a remarkable variety of mechanisms by which the same basic processes of organic matter accumulation and water storage are achieved. Mires are of considerable value to adjoining and downstream ecosystems or human societies for the services which these systems provide - for example through water purification, water supply and the provision of foodstuffs. Their carbon store is of considerable significance for atmospheric carbon cycling and thus for the issue of global warming. They are also a source of biological material and genetic richness. They contain species which have highly specialised adaptations and which contribute significantly to the global gene pool. A great variety of mire types exists throughout the world; each type indicating specific climatic, hydrological or hydrochemical conditions. Indeed, mires are amongst the best long-term indicators and recorders of these conditions. Mires contain important archives of cultural and environmental history, these archives reaching back more than 10,000 years. The variety of differing mire forms likewise provides a rich source of ecosystem diversity. However, unfortunately mire ecosystems are also the target of considerable development pressure around the world, whether for food production, timber products, afforestation, mineral exploitation or other commercial pressures.
For the last 12 years, an international network of mire specialists, the International Mire Conservation Group (IMCG) has been evaluating the characteristics, status and ecological values of mires throughout the world. At the 6th meeting of this network, held in Norway in 1994, a document, known as The Trondheim Declaration, and expressing concern about the under-representation of mire ecosystems in wetland conservation programmes, was adopted by the participants of this conference. This declaration was subsequently taken forward by the Canadian, Norwegian and UK Governments, in modified form and via a second declaration known as The Edinburgh Declaration, to the 6th Ramsar Conference of Parties, held in Brisbane, during March 1996. The final form of this document was formally adopted into the Ramsar Convention by the Conference of Contracting Parties as Recommendation 6.1 - The Conservation of Peatlands.
In the light of this, at the subsequent 7th IMCG Field Symposium and network meeting, held during August/September 1996 in Kushiro, Japan (hosted by the Kushiro International Wetland Centre, Pro Nature Foundation, Hokkaido Shinbun Wildlife Foundation, the Global Nature Foundation and the Environment Agency of Japan) the following resolution, hereafter to be referred to as The Kushiro Resolution for Ramsar, was adopted by the participants of the Symposium.
Representing a significant spectrum from the global mire conservation science and management community, the participants of this international conference:
GRATEFUL FOR the efforts of Canada, Norway and the UK in promoting the concerns and ideas expressed in The Trondheim Declaration and The Edinburgh Declaration;
WELCOMING the recognition of the 6th Ramsar Conference that mires are significantly under-represented in conservation programmes around the world;
AWARE OF the undertaking by all Contracting Parties to devote more effort towards the conservation of mire ecosystems;
NOTING with concern the extent to which mires, or peatlands, around the world have been, and continue to be, altered or destroyed by economic pressures and cultural activities;
SEEKS ASSURANCES THAT Ramsar policy and practice will now recognise that mires are of central importance to the world's wetland resource;
URGES national and international Ramsar committees and working groups to implement the actions laid out in Recommendation 6.1, adopted at the Brisbane Conference of Parties in 1996;
ASKS the Ramsar Bureau, the Ramsar Standing Committee and Contracting Parties that, in order to achieve these actions, they coordinate their collective programmes to enable the following measures to be adopted throughout the Ramsar network:
- Determination of the needs, within their respective territories, for mire inventories, including mire types, plant communities, animal communities (especially invertebrates), ecosystem architecture, mire functions, extent of cultural alteration, research required for effective conservation and wise use management;
- Reporting on these identified needs to the Conference of Contracting Parties;
- Reviewing the extent to which existing conservation programmes have resulted in an under-representation of mire systems within national and international mire conservation programmes, as identified by Recommendation 6.1;
- Establishing or carrying out the those tasks identified as requiring action from the reviews described above ;
- Reporting on progress of these action programmes to the Conference of Contracting Parties, identifying the ways in which the results of these actions will be of value to mire conservation;
also ASKS FOR:
- Establishment of mire conservation programmes based on the available inventory and research results, these programmes being designed to ensure that the conservation of mire ecosystems is adequately achieved across the natural range of their biogeographical regions;
the IMCG RECOGNISES that these tasks will require supra-national integration, and therefore:
ASKS Contracting Parties to provide for such a mechanism;
finally, the IMCG:
ENCOURAGES those party to the Ramsar Convention to make use of the expertise available within the IMCG network, this expertise covering such issues as mire classification, inventory methods, evaluation, monitoring, conservation and management, and which the IMCG is pleased to make available to Contracting Parties, the STRP, the Standing Committee, the Ramsar Bureau, and other national governments or interested parties.
The International Mire Conservation Group (IMCG)
The International Mire Conservation Group (IMCG) is an international network of specialists active in peatland (mire) conservation. These specialists are generally advisors to their respective governments on peatland conservation issues and many have considerable international expertise and experience. The network was established in 1984 in Austria, specifically to promote and encourage the conservation of mires throughout the world. It meets at least every two years in a host country and spends up two two weeks travelling through the country to examine mire conservation issues in the field. So far such Field Symposia and Workshops have been held in Austria, the UK, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Ireland, Switzerland, Japan and Russia. A number of resolutions may be produced from these symposia, which are then directed to the appropriate authorities. The IMCG network operates in conjunction with organisations such as the Ramsar Bureau, Wetlands International and WWF, and is a member of the European Habitats Forum. The IMCG is managed by a small Working Group, and its membership extends from Europe to China, Japan, Canada and New Zealand. An IMCG Newsletter is produced three or four times a year.
The IMCG can be contacted via the Secretariat:
Mr Richard LINDSAY, Chairman (IMCG)
Department of Environmental Sciences
University of East London
London E15 4LZ United Kingdom
Telephone: ++(44) - 181 - 590 - 7000 xtn. 4088
Fax: ++(44) - 181 - 849 - 3641