UK names five new Ramsar sites

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Great Britain has designated five new Wetlands of International Importance, bringing its total number of Ramsar sites to 148, covering 753,844 hectares. All five have also been classified as Special Protection Areas under the EC Wild Birds Directive.

Cromarty Firth (4197 hectares), 20km north of Inverness, Scotland, supports the full range of estuarine habitats. Of particular importance are the extensive intertidal mudflats which support sizeable beds of Zostera spp. The tidal flats are bordered locally by saltmarsh which grades into alluvial woodland at the mouth of the River Conon, and internationally important numbers of waterbirds are present. The site is vulnerable to industrial development, including land reclamation, and oil-related activities in the area; recent integrated management initiatives, however, provide a mechanism through which a range of interested parties can help alleviate the development and recreational threats to the site.

Inner Moray Firth (2339 ha) also lies to the north of Inverness and comprises the Beauly Firth and part of the Inverness Firth, which together form the southeastern estuarine component of the Moray Basin ecosystem. The site supports a variety of important wetland habitats, including intertidal flats, saltmarsh, and a sand and shingle spit; the intertidal areas are especially important for the populations of wintering waterfowl which feed and roost there each year.

Muir of Dinnet (158 ha) comprises two neighboring lochs (Davan and Kinord) and nearby peatlands some 45km west of Aberdeen, Scotland, and in winter regularly supports internationally important numbers of Greylag Goose Anser anser (averaging about 30,000 at winter peak, some 29% of the world population). The Ramsar site falls within the Muir of Dinnet National Nature Reserve managed for its nature conservation interest by the Scottish Natural Heritage under agreement with the private owners.

North Uist Machair and Islands Phase 1 (1560 ha), on the west and north coasts of North Uist in the Outer Hebrides, Western Isles of Scotland, comprises two "machair" areas (grassland upon sand, commonly behind coastal sand dunes in northwestern Scotland), which show a range of habitats from intertidal sand and rock through sand dunes and dune slacks to a calcareous coastal plain and acid grassland. The site contains freshwater wetlands, including eutrophic and mesotrophic machair loch; important freshwater marshes and fens; wet and dry machair and saltmarsh, important for their breeding and wintering waterfowl – it supports a rich and diverse range of plant communities and includes some nationally scarce plants and mosses.

Poole Harbour (2439 ha), on the south coast of England between the town of Poole and the Isle of Purbeck, is described as the best and largest example of a bar-built estuary with lagoon characteristics in Britain, and it supports two species of nationally rare plant and one nationally rare alga, as well as at least three Red Data Book species of invertebrate. Transitions from saltmarsh through to peatland mires are of exceptional conservation importance as few such examples remain in Britain. There are also internationally important numbers of waterfowl. Urban growth has had significant impacts, but in recent years, further encroachment by development has been almost halted by changes in national and local policy; most of the site falls under the authority of Poole Harbour Commissioners and management policies have been in place since 1987.

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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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