Recent progress towards Global Action on Peatlands

11/06/2004

Ramsar's Coordinating Committee for Global Action on Peatlands meets in Tampere, Finland

During COP8 in 2002, the Ramsar Contracting Parties formally recognized that "peatlands are a vital part of the world's wetland resources" as well as their "importance to the maintenance of global diversity and for the storage of water and carbon, which constitute a function vital to the world's climate system". Through Resolution VIII.17 they adopted detailed "Guidelines for Global Action on Peatlands" (cf. Ramsar Handbook 14, downloadable from www.ramsar.org/lib_handbooks_e.htm).

In 2003, the Ramsar Secretariat established a Coordinating Committee for Global Action on Peatlands (in short CC-GAP) to prepare an implementation plan for global action on peatlands. The open-ended Committee consists of peatland experts representing interested Contracting Parties, Ramsar's Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP), the International Mire Conservation Group (IMCG), the International Peat Society (IPS), Ramsar's International Organisation Partners and other NGOs, the private sector and other bodies, including the secretariats of the Convention on Biodiversity and of the UN Framework Convention to Combat Climate Change.

The CC-GAP held its initial meeting in the Netherlands (Wageningen, 5-6 November 2003) with generous support from the Global Peatland Initiative (with a grant from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, DGIS). The Committee convened again on 6 June 2004 in Tampere, Finland, back-to-back with the 12th International Peat Congress (cf. below). It aims to finalise a draft implementation plan for global action on peatlands before the end of 2004.

Ramsar Contracting Parties are requested to provide information on their actions to "ensure the conservation and wise use of peatlands as a demonstration of the ecosystem-based approach under the Convention" as part of their National Report under Operational Objective 3.2 (cf. the detailed format at www.ramsar.org/cop9_nrform_ready_e.htm). Input by Contracting Parties is essential to report on progress in implementing the Guidelines for Global Action on Peatlands, including recommendations on future priorities to be prepared for Ramsar COP9.

The CC-GAP prepared a work programme for elaborating the report and recommendations to be submitted to COP9. To this end, it will be supported by the Global Peatland Initiative's secretariat and steering committee, as well as, hopefully, by a number of additional peatland specialists of Ramsar's STRP and from specific Contracting Parties. A draft implementation plan and recommendations will be available prior to the next meeting of the CC-GAP, scheduled for 11-12 October 2004 in the Netherlands. Specific recommendations for COP9 will be focusing on the regulatory and natural functions of peatlands (in relation to climate change, water resource management and biodiversity), their social and cultural values (peatlands for people and poverty alleviation) and their production values (peatlands and agriculture, forestry, energy production, infrastructure development pressures). If you wish to receive the draft document for comment, please contact the Ramsar Secretariat: salathe@ramsar.org.

Next to the Tampere Conference Hall, where the 12th International Peat Congress took place 7-11 June 2004, several artists performed or dressed up peatland sculptures such as this.

In Tampere, the International Peat Society (IPS) pledged to look into the possibility of supporting, with expertise and financial means provided by its members, the further work and October meeting of Ramsar's CC-GAP to finalise the report and recommendations for COP9. IPS is the major global organisation of scientific, industrial and regulatory peatland stakeholders. It is dedicated to fostering the advancement, exchange and communication of scientific, technical and social knowledge and understanding for the wise use of peatlands and peat (more on IPS at www.peatsociety.fi). It is anticipated that the promised support by the IPS will provide a real boost for the implementation of the Ramsar Guidelines for Global Action on Peatlands in the preparation of COP9 and well beyond. Hopefully, this will be complemented by renewed support to the Global Peatland Initiative by the Dutch Government (via its Alterra institute), thus illustrating an efficient "public-private-partnership".

The 12th International Peat Congress held in Tampere from 6-11 June under the theme "Wise Use of Peatlands", with the participation of more than 500 experts, provided a timely overview on peatlands issues worldwide, such as mire ecology and pristine landscapes, peatland forestry and agriculture, use of peat for horticulture and power generation, restoration of peat production sites, balneological use of peat and ecotourism in peatlands. For more inspiration, visit www.ips2004.com.

A specific round table meeting during the Congress focused on the "Wise use of tropical peatland", organised by professor Jack Rieley, vice-president of IPS and a member of Ramsar's CC-GAP, with support by the Indonesian Government. After introductions on Ramsar's Wise Use approach for wetlands and the wise use guidelines for peatlands elaborated by IPS and IMCG (cf. our news item on their launch at COP8 www.ramsar.org/caxref:4784), Bambang Setiadi, from the Indonesian Ministry of Research and Technology, Suwido Limin, from the Centre for International Cooperation in Management of Tropical Peatland in Indonesia, and Mohamed Murteza of the University of Malaysia in Sarawak, illustrated the serious problems created by inappropriate land development in tropical peat swamp forests leading to farming failure, social conflict, flood disasters and air pollution health hazards provoked by peat fire haze. An EU-funded research project (cf. www.strapeat.alterra.nl), focusing on the problems of Borneo's peatlands, is currently trying to find ways to alleviate the disastrous consequences of earlier, ill-fated development projects, such as the mega rice project in central Kalimantan.

To contribute information about your own activities for the implementation plan on Global Action for Peatlands, please contact the Ramsar Secretariat at salathe@ramsar.org.

Views of Torronsuo National Park, one of Finland's 38 candidate Ramsar Sites soon to be added to the List.

The site covers 3000 ha of raised bog, an important habitat for species such as European crane and lynx, covered by the European Union Wild Birds and Habitats, Fauna and Flora Directives.

The National Park currently receives specific project support from the EU LIFE-Nature programme for its improved management.

The flower of the soon-to-be cloudberry, a wild species of Nordic bogs in great demand for chutneys, jams and other gastronomic uses.

-- report and photos, Tobias Salathé, Ramsar

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