The Ramsar Convention Manual, 2nd ed. (1997)


The 1997 edition has been superseded by the Ramsar Manual, third edition, 2004.

bookmanual.jpg (8342 bytes)The Ramsar Convention Manual

A Guide to the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971)

2nd edition

Ramsar Convention Bureau - 1997

The Ramsar Convention Manual: a Guide to the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971), 2nd ed. Gland, Switzerland: Ramsar Convention Bureau, 1997.

The first edition of the Ramsar Manual, published in 1994, was compiled and edited by T. J. Davis. This second edition has been revised and updated by D. Blasco, based upon the first English edition and the Spanish version of 1997, edited by D. Blasco and M. Carbonell. Valuable editorial assistance was provided by T. Jones.

Copyright © Ramsar Convention Bureau, 1997.

Reproduction of material from this publication for educational and other non-commercial purposes is authorized without prior permission from the Ramsar Bureau, providing full acknowledgment is given. Reproduction of material for resale or other commercial purposes is prohibited without the prior written permission of the Ramsar Bureau.

Note: The designation of geographical entities in this Manual, and the presentation of the material, do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Ramsar Convention Bureau concerning the legal status of any country, territory, or area, or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

Citation: Ramsar Convention Bureau, 1997. The Ramsar Convention Manual: a Guide to the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971), 2nd ed. Ramsar Convention Bureau, Gland, Switzerland.

ISBN 2-940073-23-6

Editing: Valerie Higgins and Dwight Peck, Ramsar Bureau

Layout: Dwight Peck, Ramsar Bureau

Cover design: L’IV Communications, CH-1110 Morges, Switzerland

Printed by: Imprimerie Dupuis, CH-1348 Le Brassus, Switzerland

2 February – World Wetlands Day
Join the world-wide Ramsar community in commemorating the anniversary of the Convention.

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Editors’ foreword to the 2nd edition

The purpose of the Ramsar Convention Manual

1. The Ramsar Convention

1.1 What is the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands?

1.2 What are wetlands?

1.3 Why conserve wetlands?

1.4 Why an intergovernmental convention on wetlands?

1.5 Why do nations join the Ramsar Convention

1.6 Who may join the Ramsar Convention?

1.7 What are the commitments of Parties joining the Ramsar Convention?

1.7.1 Listed sites
1.7.2 Wise use
1.7.3 Reserves and training
1.7.4 International cooperation
1.7.5 Further interpretation of the commitments

1.8 The Ramsar Convention today

1.9 The Ramsar Strategic Plan 1997-2002

1.10 Synergy with other environment-related conventions

2. A brief history of the Ramsar Convention

2.1 Background

2.2 The Paris Protocol

2.3 The Regina Amendments

2.4 A Ramsar chronology – key events

2.5 Further reading

3. How does the Ramsar Convention work?

3.1 The Conference of the Contracting Parties

3.2 The Standing Committee

3.3 The secretariat

3.4 The Administrative Authorities and diplomatic notifications

3.5 The Scientific and Technical Review Panel

3.6 The Ramsar Convention budget

3.7 The Ramsar regions

3.8 National Ramsar Committees

3.9 External links

4. Assisting the Contracting Parties

4.1 Listed Sites

4.1.1 Criteria for Identifying Wetlands of International Importance

4.1.2 The Information Sheet on Ramsar Wetlands

4.1.3 The Ramsar Database

4.1.4 Classification System for Wetland Type

4.1.5 The Montreux Record

4.1.6 The Management Guidance Procedure

4.2 The wise use of wetlands

4.2.1 What is wise use?

4.2.2 Establishment of national wetland policies

4.2.3 Knowledge of wetlands and their values

4.2.4 Action at particular wetland sites

4.2.5 The Wise Use Project

4.2.6 General Objective 2 of the Ramsar Strategic Plan

4.3 Reserves and training

4.3.1 Reserves

4.3.2 Training

4.3.3 Management, zonation and restoration of wetlands

4.4 International cooperation

4.4.1 Cooperation with and between Contracting Parties

4.4.2 Transboundary wetland conservation

4.4.3 Transboundary species conservation

4.4.4 The twinning of Ramsar sites

4.4.5 The MedWet Initiative

4.4.6 The Ramsar Small Grants Fund

4.4.7 Project support

4.4.8 External support agencies

4.5 Communicating the Ramsar message

4.5.1 Ramsar and the Internet

4.5.2 Publications

4.5.3 Promotional items

4.5.4 The Ramsar logo

4.5.5 Signs at Ramsar sites

4.5.6 World Wetlands Day

5. How States may join the Ramsar Convention

5.1 Wording the instrument of accession

5.2 Designating the first wetland for the Ramsar List

5.3 Designating additional sites for the List

5.4 The cost of joining the Convention

Appendices [Note: Rather than reprint these documents from the Manual, we have merely hyperlinked to their most up-to-date versions already on this Web site. -- Web Editor.]

1 Text of the Ramsar Convention

2 The Ramsar 25th Anniversary Declaration

3 Resolutions and Recommendations of the Conference of the Contracting Parties

4 Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention and number of Ramsar sites (July 1997)

5 Criteria for Identifying of Wetlands of International Importance

6 Designation of sites for the List and subsequent action

7 Information Sheet on Ramsar Wetlands

8 Ramsar Classification System for Wetland Type

9 The Montreux Record

10 Working definition of ecological character, guidelines for describing and maintaining the ecological character of listed sites, and guidelines for operation of the Montreux Record

11 The Management Guidance Procedure

12 Guidelines for the implementation of the wise use concept

13 Additional guidance for the implementation of the wise use concept

14 Guidelines on management planning for Ramsar sites and other wetlands

15 Ramsar Small Grants Fund – Operational Guidelines

16 Scale of contributions by Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention (small PDF file)

17 Guidelines for the use of the Ramsar logo

Glossary of Ramsar Acronyms and Terminology

Editors’ foreword to the 2nd English edition

When the Ramsar Manual was first compiled by T. J. Davis and published in 1994, it was enthusiastically welcomed as an essential vade mecum through the sometimes bewildering world of Ramsar resolutions, guidelines, and terminology. It has been the best seller of all Ramsar publications offered for sale, and far more copies have been given away wherever the ability to pay for them has been even a little in question. As a consequence, the first edition is now virtually out of print.

In any case, in just three years history has left the Ramsar Manual behind. The accelerating growth of the Convention’s coverage, in terms both of Contracting Parties and of the number of wetlands designated for the Ramsar List, has left nearly all its "facts and figures" woefully out of date. More importantly, the substantial progress achieved on many fronts by the Brisbane Conference of the Parties in 1996 has rendered the first edition almost misleading in matters of international wetland policy and the Convention’s philosophical approaches to wetland conservation and wise use.

As the focus of the Convention’s work continues to broaden into areas of sustainable development, conservation of biodiversity, and global water issues, so too must the Manual keep up the challenging pace of the Convention’s progress. After a German version of the unamended first edition was published by the Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz und Reaktorsicherheit in Bonn, the text was somewhat revised for the French version, which was published with assistance from the Office fédéral de l’environnement, des forêts et du paysage, Switzerland. When support was found in late 1996 from the Ministerio de Medio Ambiente, Spain, for publication in Spanish, two Ramsar Bureau staff members, M. Carbonell and D. Blasco, seized the opportunity to fashion a thorough revision of the entire work.

The success of this effort forced the conclusion that a similar updating of the English original could no longer be deferred, and in the end, rather than assign that task to already-overburdened staff members, the Secretary General took on the job himself. The editors have him to thank for the fact that at last we have a Ramsar Manual that we can give to people without having to add a long explanation about the march of history and the ravages of time.

Many others have contributed to the present work as well, directly and indirectly, and the editors would also like to thank the entire staff of the Bureau for their support and contributions, but especially Tim Jones for his careful review of the text, Michael Smart for his unfailingly wise counsel, and Delmar Blasco and Louise Lakos for their leadership of the Convention’s progress over the past few years.

The Editors
August 1997

The purpose of the Ramsar Convention Manual

The Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971) was signed on 2 February 1971. During its first quarter century the Convention has published numerous reports, proceedings, brochures, books, newsletters and other documents which, collectively, chart its development and achievements. Nowhere amongst this abundance of important literature, however, is there a comprehensive guide to the way in which the Convention works. The aim of this Manual, therefore, is to bring together in a single publication the objectives, methods of working, activities, achievements and key documents of the Convention so far. For completeness, it includes a brief history of the Convention, together with a chronology of important events in its development.

The Manual is aimed at a wide readership, but particularly at those who may, in their day-to-day work, require information about the Ramsar Convention. Hence, whether you work in a government agency or a non-governmental organization, are a manager or warden of a wetland nature reserve, are involved in environmental education, or simply have an amateur interest in wetland conservation and the role of the Ramsar Convention, this Manual should provide you with the answers you require. Every facet of the Convention is described.

The Manual is available in the three official working languages of the Convention – English, French and Spanish. The intention is to update the Manual from time to time in order to keep abreast of developments and important decisions, notably those made at the triennial meetings of the Conference of the Contracting Parties. Any omissions or additional information that the reader feels would improve the Manual should be addressed to the Ramsar Convention Bureau.

Using the Manual

The Manual has been designed to make it easy for the reader to find a particular subject, either through the list of contents or by cross-reference of keywords in the text to the section in which they are explained, e.g. Information Sheet on Ramsar Wetlands (4.1.2).

The list of Ramsar publications is given in section 4.5.2. There is also a glossary of Ramsar Convention terminology and a list of the acronyms in common use in the Ramsar community.

A comprehensive set of appendices, including the text of the Convention and the guidelines and additional guidance for the implementation of the wise use concept, expands on the explanations and summaries of the key aspects of the Convention given in the general text.

Throughout the text, reference is made to numbered recommendations and resolutions – e.g., Recommendation 4.5. These refer to decisions of the Conference of the Contracting Parties. In the example provided, the first number (i.e., 4) refers to the 4th Meeting of the Conference (Montreux, Switzerland, 1990), and the number immediately after the full point (i.e., 5) denotes the number of the relevant recommendation or resolution of that particular meeting of the Conference. (The Roman numeral VI has been used for the Resolutions of the 6th Conference of the Parties, Brisbane, 1996.)

For reasons of space it has not been possible to reproduce in this book the full texts of the resolutions and recommendations approved by the six meetings of the Conference of the Contracting Parties. A list of their titles and reference numbers is given in Appendix 3, however, and the full texts can be obtained from the Ramsar Web site ( or from the Ramsar Convention Bureau.

Note on this reprint publication of the book (April 1998):

The first Ramsar Manual was edited by Tim Davis and published by the Bureau in 1994.  As indicated in the editorial history outlined above, this second English edition evolved in the summer of 1997 from a updating of the original text made for the publication of the Spanish version.   This reprint edition is composed of three individual Web files for the descriptive portions of the book and, for all of the documents in the Manual's Appendices, links in the table of contents above to the latest versions of the documents already here on this Web site. 

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The Convention today

Number of » Contracting Parties: 168 Sites designated for the
» List of Wetlands of
International Importance
2,181 Total surface area of designated sites (hectares): 208,545,658

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