The Ramsar Bulletin Board, 3 August 1998

Excellent new data from Greece. In conformity with Resolution VI.13 from the Brisbane COP, and a Bureau notification sent to all Contracting Parties last year, Greece has supplied detailed Ramsar Information Sheets for its 10 Listed sites. These have been compiled by the Ministry of Environment, Physical Planning and Public Works, in conjunction with the Greek Biotope/Wetland Centre (EKBY). Each RIS is completed to a high standard, and the data series as a whole is amongst the best available for any Contracting Party in the Western European Region. It is especially good to see that the 'Fish Criteria', adopted at the Brisbane COP, have been applied, and that all 10 sites are reported to meet both criteria 4a and 4b. The RISs also clearly show the pressure which many Greek wetlands are under; currently all of the Ramsar sites are inlcuded in the Montreux Record. The conservation management measures being implemented to address site pressures are detailed in the RISs, and the Ramsar Bureau is currently working with the Greek Government on a mechanism to establish which sites might be removed from the Montreux Record.

Reefs at Risk published.. "Although they occupy less than one quarter of 1 percent of the marine environment, coral reefs are home to more than a quarter of all known marine fish species. These habitats have been called the rainforests of the marine world." So begins the introduction to an excellent new book from the World Resources Institute, co-published by the International Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management, the World Conservation Monitoring Centre, and the UN Environment Programme. Entitled Reefs at Risk: a Map-Based Indicator of Threats to the World’s Coral Reefs, the 56-page softcover full-color report presents a detailed analysis of threats to and pressures upon the world’s coral reefs, with informative maps and decorative photographs on almost every page. Read more about it here. [24/7/98]

Global Biodiversity Forum set for Ramsar COP.  A session of the Global Biodiversity Forum will be convened in San José, Costa Rica, on 7-9 May 1999, immediately prior to the 7th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Wetland (Ramsar, Iran, 1971), which meets 10-19 May. Themes currently proposed by the NGO organizers for GBF Ramsar presently include: 1) Defining a "vision" for the Ramsar List; 2) Responding to the threat of invasive species to wetland ecosystems; 3) The private sector and wetlands; 4) Restoration of wetlands, protect or repair? 5) Global action to conserve peatlands and mires.  Here is a somewhat more detailed prospectus, and we will reprint further announcements here as they become available. [16/7/98]

Coastal Ramsar sites. In response to a routine data request from the Bureau, Edith Hubert of Wetlands International has provided a one-page overview of coastal Ramsar sites and the distribution of wetland types found within them.  We include it incidentally here as a kind of a up-to-date snapshot of an important part of the Ramsar List. [17/7/98]

Ecuador names a new Ramsar site.  The Government of Ecuador has designated Reserva Biológica Limoncocha (4,613 hectares) for the List of Wetlands of International Importance.  The new site is a system of swamps and marshes along the floodplain of the Napo River, in the tropical rain forest; it is very rich in biodiversity, especially in blue-green algae and diatoms.   Several indigenous communities live in the area and are dependent upon traditional fishing.  A biological research station was established in the site last year, but as yet there is no management plan.  The main threat to the ecological character of the site comes from oil extraction by a foreign company.  At the same time, Ecuador also nominated a second site, Laguna de Cube, and the Bureau is only awaiting submission of a map to accompany the Ramsar Information Sheet before including this designation in the Ramsar List. [14/7/98]

Colombia becomes the Convention’s 112th Contracting Party. The Ramsar Bureau is delighted to welcome Colombia as the 112th Contracting Party. Colombia's instrument of ratification reached UNESCO on 18 June, so the treaty will come into force for that country on 18 October 1998. Colombia's first Wetland of International Importance is "Sistema Delta Estuarino del Río Magdalena, Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta" (ca. 400,000 hectares) in Magdalena province, comprising 20 lagoons of different water salinity, of which Ciénaga Grande (45,000 ha) is the largest. The mangroves are of special relevance as this is the largest area of mangrove ecosystem on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. Fishing is very important for the local economy, and the biodiversity of the area is especially high. Colombia's accession to the Convention leaves only Guyana on the South American continent still to become a member. [10/7/98].

Congo becomes the Convention’s 111th Contracting Party. UNESCO has informed the Bureau that the Republic of the Congo has joined the Convention as of 18 June 1998, so that the treaty comes into force for Congo on 18 October 1998. La Réserve Communautaire du Lac Télé/Likouala-aux-Herbes has been designated as its first Ramsar site, an immense 438,960-hectare expanse of swamp forest and floating prairie along the Likouala-aux-Herbes and its tributaries, located in the north of the country about 85 km west of Impfondo. The reserve is part of the vast wetland area described in the Hughes’ Directory of African Wetlands (IUCN, 1992) as the Cuvette Congolaise, or Congolese Basin (p. 494). Lac Télé is the legendary home of the giant dinosaur-like animal called Mokele Mbembe. [8/7/98]

Oceania regional meeting set for NZ. The Government of New Zealand has offered to host the Ramsar regional meeting for the Oceania region, with the endorsement of the Standing Committee's Oceania representative, Papua New Guinea. It will probably be held in early December in the Waikato region of the country, where there are presently three Ramsar sites. All Pacific Island nations are expected to participate, as well as the region's three Contracting Parties, and a key feature of the agenda will be the question of harmonizing the implementation of the Ramsar Convention with the CBD, Climate Change, and other conventions. Final venue and dates will be announced soon. With the recent Pan-European and Pan-American regional meetings, and the Pan-African meeting going on now in Kampala, most Ramsar Parties are now assured of having the benefit of a regional gathering before the 7th Conference of the Parties in May 1999, and the Bureau is very hopeful that firm plans for an Asian meeting will be announced quite soon. [8/7/98]

South Africa names its 16th site. The Republic of South Africa’s Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Z. Pallo Jordan, has designated Nylsvley Nature Reserve (3,970 ha) as his country’s 16th Ramsar site. Part of the largest floodplain "vlei" in South Africa, the reserve hosts over 370 bird species and 102 waterbird species, as well as the endangered Roan antelope (Hippotragus equinus) and the rare Tsessebe (Damaliscus lunatus). Land use on the reserve is primarily conservation-oriented with tourism and environmental education also being important activities. Minister Jordan noted that he was "honoured to be able to put forward the proposed site for designation to the List, and in so doing reinforce South Africa’s commitments to the international effort to protect wetlands".  [8/7/98]

News from the far north. Finland has recently submitted updated information sheets for the 11 Ramsar sites which have been included in the Ramsar List since 1975. It is hoped that additional Ramsar sites in Finland may be designated prior to COP7. The Bureau has also learned of the retirement of Dr Antti Haapanen, who has been the Convention's focal point in the Finnish Ministry of Environment for the past quarter century! Dr Haapanen attended the 1st COP in 1980, and has since been a regular participant at Ramsar meetings. On behalf of the Convention, we thank Dr Haapanen for his commitment to wetland conservation over the years, and send our best wishes for many long summers in the field. [8/7/98]

News from Hungary. The Bureau has recently received the English version of the 1996 Hungarian Act on Nature Conservation, which entered into force on 1 January 1997. The Act makes several notable references to wetlands. For example, Article 18 requires that 'In natural or near-natural wetland habitats, the water reserve ecologically necessary for the subsistence of natural values as well as for the conservation and maintenance of natural systems shall not be artificially abstracted'. In relation to specific wetland types, Article 23 provides for protection of all springs, bogs, sink-holes and salt lakes. For further information, contact the National Authority for Nature Conservation at the Ministry of Environment and Regional Policy. [8/7/98]

Mongolia names three new sites. Despite the fact that Mongolia joined the Convention only a few months ago, the Ministry of Nature and the Environment has already submitted three additional nominations to the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance, bringing the total number of Ramsar sites in Mongolia to four (264,220 hectares) and the number of Ramsar sites in all the 110 Contracting Parties to 927 (68,203,343 ha). Here's a brief description of the new designations. [6/7/98]

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2,186 Total surface area of designated sites (hectares): 208,674,247

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