Wetland conservation in the Nordic countries

01/05/2004

Nordic Wetland Conservation

The Nordic Council of Ministers has recently published an excellent, well-illustrated 176-page book entitled Nordic Wetland Conservation, covering 30 years of conservation experience in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden and including self-governing territories like Greenland, Åland, and the Faeroes. Available from bookstores in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, and English versions, it provides superb coverage of the general wetland issues, the wise use concept, the Ramsar Convention and other international regimes, and the status of wetlands in each of the Nordic countries. The project team was composed of "experienced staff who are responsible for the matters in question at the national management institutions" - namely, Sten Asbirk (Denmark), Thor Hjarsen (Greenland), Trausti Baldursson (Iceland), Torsten Larsson (Sweden), Timo Asanti (Finland), and project manager Jon Suul and secretary Øystein Størkersen (Norway), with secretariat functions provided by the Directorate for Nature Management in Norway and assistance from a large number of additional experts.

The back cover offers the following brief description: "Conservation of wetlands has formed an important part of the Nordic nature conservation effort, particularly in the last 30 years. This work by the Nordic countries has been closely linked with the task of fulfilling their obligations as signatories of the Ramsar Convention and, as regards the nations that are EU members, the requirements of the more recent Birds and Habitat Directives. . . . This report attempts to sum up the status of wetland conservation in the Nordic region after 30 years. It also points out a number of unfulfilled tasks and makes recommendations for how the work should proceed in the years ahead."

The new book will be launched at the Nordic Wetland Conference & Ramsar Meeting in Ørlandet, Norway, on 4 May 2004 (conference programme in PDF).

Preface(reprinted from the text)

The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Wildfowl Habitats, the Ramsar Convention, celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2001. It was also 30 years after the first major, joint Nordic nature conservation project began, which in fact concerned important wetlands in the Nordic countries, and 25 years after the European Wetlands Year, backed by the European Council. International efforts in classic nature conservation in the 1960s and 1970s were significantly oriented towards wetlands. Inspired by what was taking place elsewhere in the world, nature conservation work in several Nordic countries put considerable effort into protecting wetlands in the 1970s and 1980s.

These anniversaries and the new century and new millennium almost coincide in time, and these historic events help to make it relevant to examine the current status of wetlands and wetland conservation in the Nordic countries and undertake a scientific evaluation of what the future has in store here. It is opportune to look at our past efforts and experience against the perspective of the problems and challenges facing us in the future.

Using individually evolved measures, all the Nordic nations have been working on conservation plans and programmes linked with wetlands, and in recent years this effort has been integrated with work on biological diversity. All the Nordic countries have ratified the 1971 Ramsar Convention. In the Nordic countries which are EU member states, the EU directives dealing with habitat and bird protection have also considerably influenced the conservation of wetlands and their associated flora and fauna.

This report briefly presents some of the history of wetland conservation in the individual countries and in the Nordic countries as a whole. It also attempts to give a broad review of the information available on some wetland species and wetland areas, as well as describing the status of areas that have been directly or indirectly protected through one scheme or another, such as special national legislation, general biotope protection, being placed on the Ramsar List or other internationally recognised lists, or through the EU Habitat and/or Birds Directives. Relevant problems are assessed, together with future threats, challenges and needs.

The report concludes with recommendations based on experience gained and evaluations undertaken by scientific institutions in the Nordic countries and their partners over the past 30 years. These recommendations are principally aimed at the national bodies responsible for this work in the Nordic countries, bur also the Nordic Council of Ministers and the international Ramsar Convention Bureau in Switzerland.

This report has been partly funded by the Ramsar Bureau in Switzerland (see additional Preface).

The report is being published in separate Scandinavian (Norwegian, Swedish and Danish) and English editions.

Additional preface by Peter Bridgewater, Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention

Nordic wetlands are vital for many species of plants and animals, especially birds, but are also of great importance as sources of water for people. Wetlands also are the source of a wide range of natural products, and are increasingly sites for ecotourism.

Presenting a complete view of the status of wetland conservation in the Nordic region, this report helps increase awareness about the species and landscape richness of Nordic wetlands. This report also sets out clearly their fragility, and the numerous threats they face. This reference document is thus an important tool for decision makers, and all people involved in the conservation and management of these outstanding global ecosystems - important in their own right, and also as mitigation against the threats from climate change.

The preparation of this report serves as an excellent example of fruitful transboundary collaboration between government instrumentalities dealing with environmental issues from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

This report also illustrates well the three "pillars" of the Ramsar Convention: working towards the wise use of wetlands, establishing a global ecological network through the development of the List of Wetlands of International Importance, and encouraging international cooperation in the delivery of wetland conservation and wise use.

Indeed, helping conservation of wetlands in the Nordic region means maintaining water quality and quantity, as well as biodiversity. It also shows the need for synergy between national efforts, as well as global and regional actions, under the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar, Iran, 1971), the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Convention on Migratory Species, and the European Birds Directive.

The Ramsar Convention Secretariat is thus very pleased to have participated in this worthwhile joint effort, which will help nature conservation and biodiversity management more generally.

1st December 2003
Gland, Switzerland

PETER BRIGDEWATER
SECRETARY GENERAL
RAMSAR CONVENTION BUREAU

Recommendations(reprinted from pages 154-55 of the printed edition)

Based on the contents of this document, and the benefit of insight gained from 30 years work on wetland conservation in the Nordic region, knowledge, threats, challenges and requirements are summed up here in the form of a number of recommendations. These are mainly directed at the authorities which have responsibility in this field in the various countries, but also at the Nordic Council of Ministers and institutions beyond the Nordic region. The intention is that the report and its conclusions will help to draw attention to relevant problems and be a positive contribution to discussions on the continued effort for wetland conservation in the Nordic countries.

Recommendations to responsible national authorities in the Nordic countries are:

General aims

* The countries that have achieved least in wetland conservation should support the general Nordic aim to strive after the countries that have achieved most. This also applies to the self-governing areas of Aland, the Faeroes and Greenland. It concerns, among other things, drawing up better formal means (national legislation, organisation and management tools).

* "Wise use" principles should be implemented in every relevant sector and the various sectors should be better coordinated, for instance as regards the use of grant schemes.

Accommodation to EU Directives

* Both Nordic nations which are EU members and those which are not should comply with the EU Birds and Habitat Directives, and the Nordic EU nations should aim to make better use of EU grants that are available for restoring wetlands under the CAP and LIFE schemes.

Follow-up of the Emerald Network

* Non-EU members among the Nordic nations should implement the Emerald Network, and a schedule for this should be agreed.

National follow-up of protected wetlands

* Protected wetlands, like other protected areas, should be managed in keeping with an overall national policy and the principle of equal treatment, and be assured adequate management by institutions possessing the required professional skills and practical experience on a level commensurate with any obligations that may be encountered in the individual site.

Follow-up of the Ramsar Convention

* Shortcomings in following up obligations stipulated by the Ramsar Convention should be attended to.

* Existing Ramsar sites in the Nordic region should be critically investigated every 5th year with regard to assessing their status, developmental trends, requirements for active management measures and, at worst, proposed listing on the Montreux Record.

* Management plans should be drawn up for all Ramsar sites.

* National wetland committees should be set up in all the Nordic countries, and relevant NGOs should be represented on them.

* Focus should be placed on acquiring more knowledge and improving training and information.

Greater effort to restore wetlands

* More wetlands should be restored in keeping with national plans where the scientific and management priorities are applied regionally. Wherever possible, the following grant schemes should be accommodated or, where necessary, introduced in countries where this has not already taken place:

- long-term plans and annual economic frameworks for restoration projects
- environmental grants within the framework of the EU common agricultural policy
- local investment programmes to improve biological diversity and government grants to local authorities to enable the implementation of a range of environmental projects.

Use of volunteers

* Scientifically oriented NGOs (non-governmental organisations, i.e. national, voluntary organisations of interested individuals) should be drawn into the follow-up effort to supervise, perform practical work, record species, etc., and cooperation with these should be improved. This particularly applies to organisations that are specially interested in matters relating to wetlands and their preservation.

Recommendations to the Nordic Council of Ministers are:

* Improving wetland conservation in the Nordic countries should become an integral part of the overriding and specific objectives in the "Biological diversity and genetic resources" project in the follow-up of the Nordic Environmental Action Programme for 2001-2004 and its continuation.

* Priority should be given to arranging a seminar to follow up this report, and international decisions should be taken in connection with the Ramsar Convention and, in that context, other relevant Conventions and EU Directives, etc. Relevant topics should include joint Nordic measures to improve information.

Recommendations to the EU Environmental Conservation Directorate are:

* The document "Wise use of wetlands" should be elaborated on with the aim of formalising its objectives, for instance by supplementing the Water Directive.

* The regulations pertaining to environmental grants available through the EU common agricultural policy should be worded in such a way that they encourage landowners to take care of wetlands and create or restore small wetlands in the agricultural landscape.

* Work concerned with Natura 2000 and the Emerald Network should be coordinated.

Recommendations to the Ramsar Bureau are:

* The Ramsar Bureau should continue to improve its follow-up and contact with the individual signatory nations with a view to ensuring a good follow-up of the Convention and the decisions taken by the signatories.

* The Ramsar Bureau and the nations which have signed the Ramsar Convention should put emphasis on coordinating and cooperating with other Conventions in relevant fields to achieve better attainment of objectives and utilisation of resources.

(Ramsar sites in the Nordic region, right)

Publications issued by the Nordic Council can be ordered from (partial list, from pages 175-76):

Belgium: Jean de Lannoy, jean.de.lannoy@infoboard.be
Canada: Renouf, order.dept@renoufbooks.com
Denmark: Svensk-Norsk Bogimport, snb@bog.dk
Finland: Akademiska Bokhandeln, akatilaus@akateeminen.com
France: Librairie Lavoisier, group@lavoisier.fr
Germany: UNO-Verlag, info@uno-verlag.de
Hungary: Euro Info Service, euroinfo@euroinfo.hu
Netherlands: De Lindeboom, books@delindeboom.com
Norway: Akademika A/S, bloken@sio.uio.no
Sweden: Fritzes, order.fritzes@nj.se
United Kingdom: Stationery Office, customer.services@tso.co.uk
United States: Bernan, query@bernan.com

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