Under-represented wetland types in the Ramsar "List of Wetlands of International Importance"


Peatlands and the Ramsar Convention

For more than 30 years, the Ramsar Convention has been the principal instrument for international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands. Adopted in Iran in 1971, it was the first of the modern global conservation treaties, and is still the only one dedicated to a particular ecosystem type. Parties to the Convention have committed themselves to designating all of their "suitable wetlands", based upon criteria developed over the years, for inclusion in the List of Wetlands of International Importance (the "Ramsar List") and maintaining their ecological character through management planning for their conservation and sustainable use.


Covering some 400 million hectares in total, peatlands represent approximately 50% of the world's terrestrial and freshwater wetlands. Despite being the most extensive single wetland type in the world, less than 10% of the global peatland area is represented on the Ramsar List.

Peatlands are made up of mainly semi-decayed plant material accumulated over some five to eight thousand years. They are major contributors to the biological diversity of regions in many parts of the world and provide a variety of goods and services, both directly and indirectly, in the form of forestry and fishery products, energy, flood mitigation, water supply and groundwater recharge. They also have a functional significance far beyond their actual geographical extent - the carbon stored in peat represents some 25% of the world soil carbon pool which would contribute to global warming and climate disruption if released.

The world's peatlands are under increasing pressure from development such as agricultural conversion, forestry and mining, for both energy and horticultural supplies. In recent years, working with the Global Peatland Initiative and organizations such as the International Mire Conservation Group, the International Peat Society, and others, the Ramsar Convention has developed Guidelines for Global Action on Peatlands and, in November 2003, has taken the lead in forming a Coordinating Committee for Global Action on Peatlands.

Wetlands of International Importance ("Ramsar Sites") with significant peatland components.

The Ramsar Secretariat's lead person on peatland issues is Tobias Salathé, salathe@ramsar.org.
For more information about the Coordinating Committee for Global Action on Peatlands, ask Marcel Silvius, Wetlands International, marcel.silvius@wetlands.org

Ramsar Resolutions and Recommendations most directly related to peatlands

Recommendation 6.1 Conservation of peatlands
Recommendation 7.1 A global action plan for the wise use and management of peatlands
Resolution VIII.11 Additional guidance for identifying and designating under-represented wetland types as Wetlands of International Importance
Resolution VIII.17 Guidelines for Global Action on Peatlands

Relevant guidance documents

Other peatland-related links

Peat Portal (Global Environment Centre)

News and Other Items on the Ramsar Web site
(reverse chronology)

From the Ramsar Forum: "Designating peatland Ramsar Sites", August 2003
Wise Use of Mires and Peatlands, by Hans Joosten and Donal Clarke, published by IPS and IMCG, January 2003, review (text at http://www.mirewiseuse.com/)
Climate Change and Wetlands: Impacts, Adaptation and Mitigation (background paper), Ramsar COP8, November 2002
Jakarta Statement on the Importance of Tropical Peatlands, International Symposium on Tropical Peatlands, at Jakarta, Indonesia, August 23, 2001
Penang Statement on Tropical Wetlands, International Conference and Workshop on Tropical Peat Swamps, July 1999
"Vital to save peat swamps" (peat fires of SE Asia), November 1997 (Star On-line, Kuala Lumpur)
Kushiro Resolution for the Ramsar Convention, International Mire Conservation Group, Kushiro, Japan, September 1996
"Waituna Wetlands Scientific Reserve", Brian Rance & Wynston Cooper, case study in Wetlands, Biodiversity and the Ramsar Convention (1996)
"Wetlands and Peatlands: a key role for Ramsar", Richard Lindsay, address to COP6, 1996

Wetlands of International Importance ("Ramsar Sites") with significant peatland components

Adobe PDF format
No. Sites
Surface Area (hectares)
Ramsar Sites in which non-forested peatlands (type U) are present
Ramsar Sites in which forested peatlands (type Xp) are present
which include
Ramsar Sites in which non-forested peatlands (type U) are dominant
Ramsar Sites in which forested peatlands (type Xp) are dominant

(These lists are current as of March 2004.)

For detailed and up-to-date information on Ramsar Sites, use the Ramsar Sites Information Service search facilities on the Ramsar Sites Database (http://www.wetlands.org/rsis/) maintained by Wetlands International.

Additional background

-- Photo at the top of the page, W. J. Cooper:
Cushion bog, Waituna, New Zealand

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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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