The Ramsar Bulletin Board, 6 November 2002

MAB Europe - Ramsar meeting in Czech Republic. "The Role of Wetlands in Biosphere Reserves" was the theme of a EuroMAB workshop convened by the Czech National Committee for the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme, the Czech National Ramsar Committee, and the Pálava Biosphere Reserve from 13-18 October in Mikulov Castle, Southern Moravia. About 70 participants from 19 European, Central Asian and North American countries presented papers and posters and debated the following themes: a) wetlands as sources of biodiversity in Biosphere Reserves, b) buffering effects of wetlands on water budget and water quality in Biosphere Reserves and the role of water resources (including groundwater) for wetland maintenance, c) management (including restoration) of wetlands for sustainable functioning in Biosphere Reserves, and d) resolution of conflicts between economic use and environmental quality of wetlands in Biosphere Reserves, towards the application of the "wise use" concept. Among them were many Ramsar national focal points and wetland and Ramsar site managers who contributed their specific experience to the interesting debates. Therein, eight action points listed for increased cooperation between MAB and Ramsar are most noteworthy. More about UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere programme and possible synergies to improve efficiency can be found on the joint Ramsar-MAB Web site at: Tobias Salathé reports, with photos. [06/11/02]

"Ramsar - has it made a difference?" The 2002/03 edition of the important Yearbook of International Cooperation on Environment and Development (Earthscan, 2002) has just been published and carries, amongst insightful summaries of all the major MEAs and NGOs presently working in the field (including Ramsar), a feature article by Michael J. Bowman, Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Nottingham and Director of the University of Nottingham Treaty Centre, entitled "The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands: Has it Made a Difference?". Dr Bowman's paper supplies a thorough survey of the history and structure of the Convention, and a sophisticated assessment of its effectiveness so far. The fact that it's not quite the panegyric that I would have written for the same purpose makes it all the more valuable, coming as it does from an outside expert in the international environmental law community. With the kind permission of Michael Bowman and editor Oystein B. Thommessen of the Fridtjof Nansen Institute, which prepares the Yearbooks (formerly called the Green Globe Yearbooks), we've reprinted this valuable article in Web and PDF formats for the edification of both students and experts alike. [31/10/02]

Ecuador names rich new Ramsar site in the Galápagos Islands. The Bureau is very pleased to announce that Ecuador has designated its 9th Wetland of International Importance for the Ramsar List, as of 17 September. The Humedales del Sur de Isabela (872 hectares, 00°57'S 090°58'W) is an area of coastal and marine wetlands, including the Poza de Los Diablos and other small ponds as well as the beaches, mangroves, and shallow marine waters of the Bahía de Puerto Villamil on Isabel, the largest of the Galápagos islands. An extremely rich area in terms of its biodiversity, the site, on islands of recent volcanic formation, has a high number of endemic species, many of which are listed as vulnerable or endangered in the IUCN Red List: the Lava gull (Larus fuliginosus), for example, the Galapagos penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus) and Galapagos sea lion (Zalophus californianus wollebacki), the Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) and Green sea urchin (Lytechinus semituberculatus), the marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) and the sea cucumber (Stichopus fuscus). Moreover, the site sustains more than 22.5% of the endemic subspecies Galapagos flamingo and significant proportions of a number of native fish species. Nearly all of the site falls within the Parque Nacional Galápagos, and human uses include tourism, non-commercial fishing among the local population, and the raising of such introduced mammals as goats, pigs, and cattle. The potential proliferation of introduced species, particularly of rats, cats, the African kikuyu grasss, and the invasive tree frog Scinax quinquefasciata since 1998 (the first amphibians in the islands), is noted as a cause for concern. This is Ramsar site number 1202, so the Convention now has 1201 sites on the List. [30/10/02] [français et/y español]

Australian project tests way to describe ecological character. Bill Phillips, erstwhile Deputy Secretary General of the Convention, has announced the completion of a project to develop a methodology for assessing the baseline ecological character of a Ramsar site. He writes to the Ramsar Forum, "Forum members may be interested in a recently completed project by a team of scientists in Australia who set out to design a datasheet to standardise the collection of data for benchmarking the ecological character of Ramsar sites across the country. The drivers for this project were a desire to have this fundamental descriptor information gathered systematically to allow early warning of change and also to establish baselines for long-term monitoring and determining impacts." The project summary includes: "The act of designating a wetland as a Ramsar site carries with it certain obligations, including to manage the site to retain its 'ecological character' and to have procedures in place to detect if any threatening process are likely to or have already altered the 'ecological character'. Therefore, describing the 'ecological character' of a Ramsar site is a fundamental management tool for Parties which should form the baseline or benchmark for management planning and action, including site monitoring to detect negative impacts." [30/10/02]

First of two Ramsar Advisory Missions to Doñana. Doñana National Park in southwest Spain is one of Europe's greatest wetlands and one of its most prestigious protected areas. It was designated as a Wetland of International Importance in 1982, and is also a UNESCO World Heritage site, a Biosphere Reserve under the UNESCO MAB programme, and an EU Special Protection Area. However, human pressures have had their effects, and in 1990, Doñana was included on the Montreux Record of Ramsar sites requiring priority attention because of fears that excessive water abstraction, mainly for tourist developments along the coast and irrigated cultures in the immediate vicinity of the National Park, would irrevocably degrade the ecological character of the site. Problems were compounded by a disastrous toxic spill upstream in 1998. Both the Spanish and the Andalusian governments have been making considerable progress, however, and in early October 2002, the end of the dry season, Ramsar's Tobias Salathé and Ramsar consultants Luis Costa and Francesc Giró undertook the first of two planned Ramsar Advisory Missions to the site, in cooperation with national and regional officials; a wet season follow-up mission is planned for early spring 2002. Here is a brief report by Dr Salathé and a few photographs of the scene -- the full mission report will appear in due time. [23/10/02]

Japan names two new Ramsar sites. The Government of Japan has designated two new Wetlands of International Importance, both chiefly because of their great value for migratory shorebirds. Fujimae-higata (323 hectares), a tidal flat near the port city of Nagoya, is an important staging site along the East Asia-Australia Flyway with one of the highest shorebird counts in Japan. It is said that, when plans to "reclaim" the tidal flat entirely for a dumping site were abandoned by the City Council, "the site became a symbol of the wetland conservation movement in Japan". Miyajima-numa (41 ha) is a small, open, shallow freshwater lake left by the nearby Ishikari river, and one of the most important staging sites for migratory Anatidae species, especially large ones, that winter in Japan. Japan presently has 13 Ramsar sites, totaling 84,089 hectares, and these two new designations bring the Convention's global total to 1200 sites. More details on the new sites can be found here. [22/10/02]

New National Wetland Centre in Spain. The Council of Ministers of Spain, at its meeting on 4 October 2002, agreed to authorize the establishment of a State Foundation for a "National Wetland Centre" to be located in the city of Valencia (venue of Ramsar COP8), although the Centre may have branches in other places in the country. According to the Council's announcement, the objectives of the Centre are "to increase, spread and divulge the scientific and technical knowledge on wetlands, to promote their sustainable use, and to encourage collaboration among government authorities, academia, and public and private entities for the conservation of these ecosystems". [21/10/02]

Czech Ramsar site successfully removed from the Montreux Record. The Czech Republic has accomplished the measures needed for removal of the Ramsar site Novozámecky a Brehynsky rybník from the Montreux Record, the list of Wetlands of International Importance requiring urgent conservation attention, as of 26 September 2002. The fishponds, created in the 14th century, were placed upon the MR in 1994 as a result of considerable adverse ecological change resulting from mismanagement of the site and surrounding areas; following a Ramsar visit and some emergency Small Grants Fund assistance in 1997 in the construction of damaged works, support from the national government, and an enormous amount of work by concerned officials at the scene, the situation has been turned round and the future seems promising for the site. Ramsar's Tobias Salathé has supplied an instructive summary of the situation, and additionally we include a reprint of the "Montreux Record Questionnaire" submitted as part of the removal process and some excellent photos of the site. So go here next. [15/10/02]

Wetland Functional Analysis Research Programme users meeting. At the eve of launching the Sixth EU Framework Programme for Research and Technology Development, the partners of long-standing research consortia across Europe gathered for a European User Forum in Brussels on 25 September 2002 to confer with users of their research results, such as the UK Environment Agency, the German Federal Institute of Hydrology, the Romanian national company Apele Romane, the European Topic Centre for Inland Waters (of the European Environment Agency), the European Environmental Bureau, WWF, the Environment Directorate General of the European Commission and the Ramsar Bureau, about their needs. The Wetland Functional Analysis research programme is coordinated by Edward Maltby at Royal Holloway Institute for Environmental Research in London with research partners in France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands, Romania, Spain, Sweden, and the UK. A brief report on the significance of the meeting is available here. [14/10/02]

Ramsar Information Centre inaugurated in France. On 25 September 2002, the Ramsar Information Centre and the Pré Curieux Water Gardens were formally opened in Evian, France, with a tour of the premises, ample explanations and a few speeches, and semi-re-frozen canapés in the gardens in a bitter north wind. The estate of Pré Curieux on the shores of Lake Geneva (Lac Léman) -- almost visible from the Ramsar Bureau on the Swiss side of the lake -- has been purchased and renovated by the town of Evian, the department of Haute Savoie, and the region of Rhône-Alpes with the semi-governmental French organization Conservatoire du Littoral, in the context of the Ramsar Evian Project financed since 1998 by the private-sector Groupe Danone and its Evian Waters subsidiary and the government of France. Please find here more details on the project and the inauguration, and quite a few low-res photos. [11/10/02]

Danube expert group meeting. On 9-10 September the 5th meeting of the Ecological Expert Group, set up by the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR), took place at Orth, a small historical town hosting the headquarters of Austria's Danube Floodplain National Park (Nationalpark Donau-Auen). The Expert Group shows how synergies between multilateral agreements and other institutions can work. The main policy instrument guiding the Experts' work, besides the Danube and Ramsar Conventions, is the European Union Water Framework Directive that introduces the river basin approach for integrated water management and requires EU member and accession states to make comprehensive assessments and inventories of wetland ecosystems in river floodplains, mainly in view of their water purification, flood retention and biodiversity preservation capacities. Ramsar's Tobias Salathé here supplies a brief report on the meeting and a number of photos of the workgang at their labors. [09/10/02]

Ramsar Subregional Meeting for the Middle East is under way. Huddling virtually under the eaves of the looming COP8 in November, the last of the preparatory regional and subregional meetings is presently under way in Beirut, Lebanon. Here is the Secretary General's welcoming address to the meeting, and here is a menu of the outputs of all the other regional and subregional Ramsar meetings that have led us to the present state of intense and anticipatory readiness for the COP. [08/10/02]

Ramsar and WWF contribution to GEF International Waters Conference. The 2nd GEF International Waters Conference (IWC) was held in Dalian, China, from 25th to 29th September 2002. A total of 186 participants attended the meeting, representing 55 different GEF-IW projects. The Dalian Conference was the follow-up to the 1st GEF International Waters Conference, held in Budapest in 2000 and attended by Mr. Alain Lambert from the Ramsar Bureau. Anada Tiéga of the Ramsar Bureau and Denis Landenbergue of WWF's Living Waters Programme report on the Global Environment Facility's IW:LEARN programme and briefly summarize their own participation in the sessions on "Freshwater Basin Management", joining Mr M. S. Adamu, Executive Secretary of the Lake Chad Basin Commission in briefing the participants on the ongoing LCBC-GEF (World Bank/UNDP) Ramsar and WWF collaborative work over the past two and half years. More detail here. [03/10/02]

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Fellowship Program. Habiba Gitay writes that the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) Fellowship Program provides an exciting and challenging opportunity for recently graduated scientists to become part of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment effort. The Fellowship Program is designed to increase the number of early career scientists with background in biophysical and social sciences (including economics) involved as authors in the MA reports due to be completed in late 2004. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment reports are being written by teams of leading scientists from a range of disciplines and from many parts of the world; the selected MA Fellows will work and interact as full members of these teams. Here are all the details, with a description of the MA itself, and the application form as well.[link later removed] [02/10/02]

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