BirdLife launches new report on candidate Ramsar sites in Europe


birdlife1.gif (3627 bytes)"Important Bird Areas and potential Ramsar Sites in Europe"

At the Ramsar Pan-European Meeting in Bled, Slovenia, October 2001, BirdLife International unveiled its brilliant new report which applies its vast up-to-date data holdings on European wetlands – the 4,000 of them that have been selected as Important Bird Areas under Birdlife’s IBA criteria – to Ramsar’s "Criteria for Identifying Wetlands of International Importance", and identifies 2,083 of them as qualifying for Ramsar status, chiefly but not exclusively under the waterbird criteria, 5 and 6. Nearly 25% of these wetlands have already received Ramsar designation, in whole or at least in part, but many more await government action.

Following a methodological preface, the 126 page report provides succinct advice to Contracting Parties on how next to proceed, from confirming lists of "candidate sites" to defining Ramsar site boundaries, to protecting sites in addition to Ramsar designation. Following all which, there is a chapter for each of Europe’s countries, with a map showing IBAs that meet the Ramsar Criteria and tabular data for each of these worthy wetlands, including surface area and Ramsar Criteria which are met.

birdlife-iba-ramsar1.jpg (29358 bytes)The new report has been prepared by Project Manager Des Callaghan, with Project Advisers Melanie Heath, John O'Sullivan, and Dave Pritchard, and an impressive list of National Contributors, and partly-funded by Vogelbescherming Nederland, RSPB, and the Ramsar Bureau. A downloadable PDF version will soon be available on the BirdLife Web site,, and the Ramsar Bureau has a considerable number of attractive printed copies which we will be happy to send free of charge to interested readers – just contact, specify that you are requesting the new BirdLife report, and give us your postal address.

Preface to the new book, by Delmar Blasco

One of the three main pillars of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands is that "each Contracting Party shall designate suitable wetlands within its territory for inclusion in a List of Wetlands of International Importance", expressed in Article 2. The other two pillars are the national commitment to ensure wise use of all wetlands in the country and to cooperate at international level, notably when wetlands extend over the territories of more than one country, where a water system is shared by several states, and in respect of shared migratory waterbird populations.

Through its evolution over the last thirty years, the Convention on Wetlands has developed criteria for the designation of Wetlands of International Importance, often known as "Ramsar Sites". Given the initial focus on "Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat", criteria based on waterbirds were most rapidly established and specific guidelines prepared to assist Contracting Parties in taking a systematic approach to identifying their priority sites for designation.

Based on the first inventory of "Important Bird Areas in Europe", published in 1989 by ICBP and IWRB, these two International Organisation Partners of the Convention on Wetlands were able to provide to the European Contracting Parties, meeting for their 4th Conference (COP4) in Montreux, Switzerland, a first list of sites that qualified for Ramsar Site designation under the two waterbird criteria, relating to wetlands regularly supporting more than 20,000 waterbirds and regularly supporting more than % of a population, subspecies or species of waterbird. I am delighted that BirdLife International has now produced a new list of key sites for waterbirds in Europe, based on the enormous work and the many years of effort by the Europe-wide BirdLife partnership to produce an updated, comprehensive inventory of "Important Bird Areas in Europe, priority sites for conservation", which was published in 2000.

During the 7th meeting of their Conference (COP7) in San José, Costa Rica, the Contracting Parties adopted a vision for the List of Wetlands of International Importance: "to develop and maintain an international network of wetlands which are important for the conservation of global biological diversity and for sustaining human life through the ecological and hydrological functions they perfom." To realise this vision for the Ramsar List, Parties agreed on three main objectives: 1) to establish national networks of Ramsar Sites which fully represent the diversity of wetlands and their key ecological and hydrological functions; 2) to contribute to maintaining global biological diversity through the designation and management of appropriate wetland sites; and 3) to foster cooperation among Contracting Parties, the Convention's International Organisation Partners, and local stakeholders in the selection, designation, and management of Ramsar Sites.

This new report, "Important Bird Areas and potential Ramsar Sites in Europe", is a most valuable contribution from one of our International Organisation Partners, BirdLife International, towards assisting Ramsar's Contracting Parties throughout Europe in achieving this vision for the List. The report provides state-of-the-art information on the importance of over 2000 wetland sites across all European countries for wetland-dependent bird species and populations, identifying from the data gathered during the European IBA programme the wetlands that appear to qualify for Ramsar site designation under the criteria based on bird species and ecological communities (criteria 2 and 4), and those specifically on waterbirds (criteria 5 and 6). I am sure that the report will provide an invaluable reference tool for the practical steps to be taken by the Contracting Parties for applying the vision for the Ramsar List, as elaborated in Ramsar Handbook 7 "Strategic Framework and guidelines for the future development of the List of Wetlands of International Importance".

The report also provides information on the occurrence in these key sites of globally threatened wetland-dependent birds, at wetlands across Europe. It has been widely recognised that such sites are as yet under-represented in the Ramsar List. The report thus also provides a valuable source for Parties in applying designation Criterion 2 concerning wetlands supporting vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered species or threatened ecological communities, for which further guidance for Contracting Parties is being developed by BirdLife International and Wetlands International.

I congratulate BirdLife International on their efforts in producing this most valuable report, and I strongly urge all European Contracting Parties to use the report as an inspiration in their efforts to achieve the short-term global target of 2000 Ramsar Sites by COP9 in the year 2005 (Resolution VII.1 1). I commend it to all involved with wetland conservation and the Ramsar Convention in Europe - and as a model for developing such reports for other regions of the world.

Delmar Blasco
Secretary General
Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971)

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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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