The 9th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties
|"Wetlands and water: supporting life, sustaining livelihoods" |
9th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties
to the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971)
Kampala, Uganda, 8-15 November 2005
Ramsar COP9 DOC. 17
Rationale for the proposed changes to the Strategic Framework and guidelines for the selection of Ramsar sites
(This document provides background information for the consideration of COP9 DR1 Annex B)
2. Rationale for amendments to Criterion 1 and its guidelines
2.1 Selection of sites for their cultural importance is already possible in the context of the application of Criterion 1, and guidance to explain this has been developed
2.2 The issue of "naturalness" and Criterion 1
2.3 Applying biogeographic regionalization under Criteria 1, 2 and 3
2.4 An assessment of current Contracting Party obligations in the context of cultural and socio-economic criteria
2.5 Defining international importance in the application of Criterion 1
3. Rationale for additional guidance for applying Criteria 5 and 6
4. Rationale for a quantitative Criterion for non-avian animal taxa - new Criterion 9
1. This Information Paper, prepared by the Scientific and Technical Review Panel's Working Group 4 (Ramsar site designation), provides the rationale for the Panel's proposals to COP9 on amendments and additions to the Strategic Framework and guidelines for the further development of the List of Wetlands of International Importance.
2. This area of the STRP's 2003-2005 Work Plan was developed to respond to Action 17.1.5 of the Ramsar Strategic Plan 2003-2008, actions for the STRP in COP8 Resolution VIII.10, and requests from the 6th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in relation to Ramsar/CBD joint work on inland waters (Decision VI/4) and coastal and marine ecosystems.
3. COP7 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), in Decision VII/4 (paragraph 29) inter alia invited:
"the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention and the Scientific and Technical Review Panel of the Ramsar Convention, in collaboration with the Executive Secretary and the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice, respectively, and in line with paragraph 30 of Resolution VIII.10 of the Conference of the Parties to the Ramsar Convention, and with a view to achieving a more comprehensive coverage of components of biological diversity through the designation of Ramsar sites:
(a) To further elaborate the guidelines on existing criteria for the following features:
(i) wetlands supporting wild relatives of domesticated or cultivated species;
(ii) wetlands that support species or communities and genomes or genes of economic, social, scientific or cultural importance;
(iii) wetlands supporting species or communities that are important for research into the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity including indicators of ecosystem health and integrity; and
(iv) wetlands that support important populations of taxonomic groups with wetland-dependent species, including, inter alia, amphibians;
(b) To consider the development of additional criteria, including, as appropriate, quantitative criteria;
4. The rationale set out in this Information Paper covers in particular STRP's proposals for:
i) amendment of Ramsar site designation Criterion 1 and expansion of its supporting guidelines to cover all types of wetland ecosystem services (sensu Millennium Ecosystem Assessment), including in relation to provisioning, regulating, cultural and supporting services;
ii) addressing site selection within biogeographic regionalization under Criteria 1, 2 and 3
iii) expansion of the guidelines for the application of quantitative waterbird Criteria 5 and 6; and
iv) the creation of a new quantitiative Criterion for non-avian wetland-dependent animal species (Criterion 9).
5. References in this paper to sections and paragraphs of the Strategic Framework are to those in Ramsar Wise Use Handbook 7, 2nd edition ("Designating Ramsar sites"), available at http://ramsar.org/lib/lib_handbooks_e07pre.doc, which provides the consolidated text of the original Strategic Framework adopted by COP7 and the additional elements of guidance adopted by COP8.
2. Rationale for amendments to Criterion 1 and its guidelines
6. Resolution VIII.10 of the Ramsar Convention's COP8:
"INSTRUCTS the Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP), with the assistance of the Ramsar Bureau, interested Contracting Parties, and other relevant organizations to develop, for consideration at COP9, additional criteria and guidelines for the identification and designation of Ramsar sites concerning socio-economic and cultural values and functions that are relevant to biological diversity, as listed in Annex 1 of the Convention on Biological Diversity, which would be applied on each occasion in conjunction with one or more existing criteria for the identification and designation of Ramsar sites; and to include in this work a full analysis of the implications for Contracting Parties of the implementation of such criteria for the management of Ramsar sites, including Contracting Party obligations and responsibilities."
7. In response to Resolution VIII.10, the STRP have:
a) reviewed the potential for establishing new site selection criteria and guidelines related to the selection of Wetlands of International Importance on the basis of their cultural and socio-economic importance;
b) reviewed the obligations for Contracting Parties that might arise from such criteria; and
c) considered the issue of defining thresholds of international importance in this context.
8. The STRP have assessed the potential for the development of an additional criterion or additional criteria for the identification and designation of Wetlands of International Importance, based upon their cultural and socio-economic importance.
9. This issue is complicated by the fact that many designated wetlands exist within landscapes in which people's activities are influenced by the wetlands and their delivery of ecosystem services (supporting, provisioning, regulating and/or cultural), and in which the wetlands themselves are influenced by the use of such services by dependent local communities (e.g., by forms of traditional management) at varying spatial and temporal scales, such that:
a) the ecological character of the wetland for which the site is selected as internationally important has developed as a result of cultural features or legacies; and
b) the maintenance of the ecological character of the wetland depends upon, or is influenced by, the interaction between human activities and the wetland's biological, chemical, and physical components (for examples see Box 1).
BOX 1. Examples of Ramsar sites whose ecological character is dependent of the maintenance of cultural and related services
Algeria: Oasis de Ouled Saïd (Ramsar Site 1060; designated under Criterion 1 only). This oasis is a type of wetland rarely designated to the List of Wetlands of International Importance. Ouled Saïd Oasis, with its foggara channels and rational use of water, its ancestral social organization and its ancient ksar (medieval fortresses), is an example of the application of wise water management.
Australia: Narran Lake Nature Reserve (Ramsar site 995; designated under Criteria 1, 4 and 6). The Narran Lakes area has a very high traditional, as well as contemporary, social and spiritual significance to the Aboriginal people. Traditionally, the area was a common meeting place for a number of Aboriginal peoples. In present times, the lake area is used by local Aboriginal communities for educational purposes. There is widespread evidence of Aboriginal people's long-term use of the area, with the traditional status of the lakes as a meeting place for the peoples in this region; "dreaming" paths which lead to the lakes; and Aboriginal people's need for involvement with land which has largely unspoilt areas. A large number and variety of Aboriginal sites exist within the Narran Lake Nature Reserve, including shell middens, shell mounds, hearth sites with clay ovens, quarries, artefact scatters and scarred trees in a relatively natural environmental context.
Colombia: Laguna de la Cocha (Ramsar Site 1047; designated under Criteria 1, 2, 4 and 5). Largely made up of a volcanic lake and the surrounding highland Andean peatlands and forest, the site supports a diverse range of associated flora and fauna. Human uses include agriculture and aquaculture. The site has an important cultural value for the indigenous groups of the area, which consider it sacred and use it for purification and fertility. The archaeological values of the site are also considerable, as it was inhabited by Precolombian communities.
France: Marais du Cotentin et du Bessin, Baie des Veys (Ramsar Site 516 ; designated under Criteria 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6). This is an exceptional wetland in terms of size and ecological diversity. It is a good representative example of a western European coastal wetland, with its wet meadows along the coast. Many habitats have maintained much of the ecological integrity they inherited from centuries of balancing between a natural environment and human activities
Sri Lanka: Annaiwilundawa Tanks Sanctuary (Ramsar Site 1078; designated under Criteria 1, 2, 3, 4, 7 and 8). As an ancient cascading tank system that dates back to the 12th century, the site is a unique wetland to the Indian region. The ancient traditional rice fields that surround it also contribute to the maintenance of wetland biodiversity.
USA: Kawainui and Hamakua Marsh Complex (Ramsar Site 1460, designated under Criteria 1, 2, 3 and 8). Sacred to Hawaiians, Kawainui Marsh, the largest remaining emergent wetland in Hawaii and Hawaii's largest ancient freshwater fishpond, is located in what was once the center of a caldera of the Koolau shield volcano. The marsh contains archaeological and cultural resources, including ancient walled taro water gardens (lo'i) where fish were also cultivated. Kawainui Marsh stores surface water, providing flood protection for adjacent Kailua town.
10. The proposed updated definition of 'ecological character' [note1][COP9 DR1 Annex A] and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment synthesis report to the Ramsar Convention [note 2] both highlight the rôle that wetlands play in providing a range of services to human populations. Ecosystems are complexes of living communities (including humans as an integral part) and the non-living environment (Ecosystem Components), interacting (through Ecological Processes) as a functional unit to provide various benefits to people (Ecological Services).
11. Ecosystem services include provisioning, regulating and cultural services that directly affect both people and the supporting services needed to maintain the other services (see Box 2). The current application of Criterion 1 recognizes this, through its specific guidance for the selection of wetlands of importance for hydrology - a response to Article 2.2 of the Convention which states that "wetlands should be selected for the List on account of their international significance in terms of ecology, botany, zoology, limnology or hydrology."
12. Thus Criterion 1 already encourages the selection of sites on the basis of ecosystem services, notably regulating services (hydrology) and supporting services (biodiversity), but the guidelines for the application of Criterion 1 adopted in the Annex to Resolution VII.11 do not cover consistently all types of ecosystem service listed in Box 2.
BOX 2. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) classification of ecosystem services in relation to wetlands (from MA Synthesis report. Wetlands and water: ecosystem service and human well-being).
Ecosystem services include:
Note that the above terms include elements previously defined by the Ramsar Convention as either 'values', 'functions' or 'services', and that the use of the term 'sevices' are taken throughout this paper to include these other descriptors.
2.1 Selection of sites for their cultural and other services is already possible in the context of the application of Criterion 1, and guidance to explain this has been developed
13. It is worth recalling that these and related issues have been considered in relation to the application of Criterion 1 by previous Conferences of the Contracting Parties. Indeed, at COP4 in 1990 (Recommendation 4.2) the Parties adopted guidance concerning the application of Criterion 1 which explicitly refers to types of provisioning, cultural and regulating services, as follows:
"(a) A wetland could be considered of international importance under Criterion 1 if, because of its outstanding role in natural, biological, ecological or hydrological systems, it is of substantial value in supporting human communities dependent on the wetland. In this context, such support would include:
provision of food, fibre or fuel;
or maintenance of cultural values;
or support of food chains, water quality, flood control or climatic stability.
The support, in all its aspects, should remain within the framework of sustainable use and habitat conservation, and should not change the ecological character of the wetland."
14. However, as part of the review by STRP of the criteria and revision of the guidelines called for in COP6 Resolution VI.3, which also called upon the STRP to take into account cultural values and/or benefits derived from wetlands, and which led to those adopted by COP7 as the Strategic Framework and guidelines for the further development of the List of Wetlands of International Importance (Resolution VII.11), this specific language was not retained.
15. Additional guidance was, however, provided (in paragraph 169 - Ramsar Handbook 7, 2nd edition) on hydrological importance (i.e. hydrological provisioning and regulating services sensu MA), picking up on some aspects of the Recommendation 4.2 guidance above.
16. Issues of cultural values and socio-economic activities are also implicitly recognized in Ramsar's existing site selection guideline concerning the application of Criterion 1 (paragraph 168), particularly as it relates to the ecological rôle of wetlands:
"168. Objective 1 and, in particular 1.2 (paragraph 10 above), indicates that another consideration under this Criterion  is to give priority to those wetlands which play a substantial hydrological, biological or ecological role [note 3] in the natural functioning of a major river basin or coastal system."
17. Accordingly, there is benefit from more explicitly and consistently highlighting the existing possibilities for the selection of Ramsar sites for the full range of ecosystem services (which may include cultural values and sustainable socio-economic activities) through the application of Criterion 1. This would better reflect (for some wetlands) the mutual dependencies between ecosystem components, processes and services (including cultural values and socio-economic activities) that occur at wetlands without the need to develop a new site selection criterion.
18. Expanded guidance for application of Criterion 1 in this context is thus proposed in COP9 DR1 Annex B, notably in paragraphs A2 and A4.
2.2 The issue of "naturalness" and Criterion 1
19. Currently, Criterion 1 uses the term "natural or near-natural wetland type" as the basis for selecting sites for designation. However, some countries now have only highly modified landscapes as a result of historical anthropogenic impacts. In these situations, there may be few, or no, natural or near-natural wetlands. It is proposed accordingly to change the reference in Criterion 1 from "near-natural" to "most-natural". This emphasizes that Criterion 1 may still be applied within modified landscapes, but that its application should still be such as to select the 'best' available sites within any national area/biogeographic region of search, irrespective of absolute degree of naturalness (in the sense of guideline paragraph 167.iii: "for each wetland type within each biogeographic region, identify for designation under the Convention those sites which provide the best examples").
Accordingly, the following change to Criterion 1 is proposed:
|Criterion 1: A wetland should be considered internationally important if it contains a representative, rare, or unique example of a natural or near- [most]-natural wetland type found within the appropriate biogeographic region.|
2.3 Applying biogeographic regionalization under Criteria 1, 2 and 3
20. Criterion 1 (see above) refers to the selection of wetlands for designation "within the appropriate biogeographic region". Likewise Criterion 3 refers to the selection of wetlands "important for maintaining the biological diversity of a particular biogeographic region"; and one of the Guidelines for applying Criterion 2 for threatened ecological communities indicates that these should be areas which are "particularly typical of the biogeographic region".
21. However, no guidance has yet been provided concerning what are appropriate biogeographic regionalization schemes to apply for wetlands, other than in the "Glossary of terms used in the Strategic Framework", which explains that a biogeographic regionalization is: "a scientifically rigorous determination of regions as established using biological and physical parameters such as climate, soil type, vegetation cover, etc. Note that for non-island Contracting Parties, in many cases biogeographic regions will be transboundary in nature and will require collaboration between countries to establish representative, unique, etc., wetland types. In some cases, the term bioregion is used synonymously with biogeographic region. In some circumstances, the nature of biogeographic regionalization may differ between wetland types according to the nature of the parameters determining natural variation."
22. COP8 introduced a field in the Information Sheet on Ramsar Wetlands (RIS) for the identification of the appropriate biogeographic region used when applying Criteria 1, 2 and 3, and requested Parties to provide the citation for the regionalization scheme used.
23. As part of its 2003-2005 work, the STRP, with the assistance of the Secretariat, reviewed that application by Parties since COP8 of information provided in this RIS field in order to assess the extent of its utility and appropriateness of application of biogeographic regionalization schemes. The review found that:
i) Amongst the 80 RISs examined which provided biogeographic regionalization information, a total of 33 different regionalization schemes have been applied.
ii) Schemes operating at a wide variety of scales have been applied, from global scale to subnational regional scale. National-scale schemes have been used most frequently (47% of RISs), followed by supranational schemes (21% of RISs).
iii) Even within a single country, there can be little consistency as to what scheme is applied, and at what geographical scale the scheme applies.
iv) Similarly, within a Ramsar region a number of different schemes and at different scales have been used by different countries.
v) For Europe the majority of sites and countries have applied the EC/Bern Convention biogeographic regions scheme which supports the EC Habitats Directive and Bern Convention 'Emerald Network' implementation.
24. The STRP concluded that there would be merit in enhancing and improving guidance on the application of biogeographic regionalization in the guidelines for the relevant Crtieria and in "Explanatory Note and Guidelines for completing the Information Sheet on Ramsar Wetlands (RIS)" annexed to the RIS in Resolution VIII.13, but without amending the RIS itself. This could cover inter alia:
i) stressing and explaining how the field should be applied correctly in relation to Criterion 2;
ii) indicating that in general (although depending of course on the size and location of the country) application of supranational schemes are preferable to national or especially subnational schemes, in order to have some coherence within the Convention's region, and especially when transboundary wetlands are being designated - since applying different schemes in different countries to the same wetland would be unhelpful; and
iii) possibly providing, at least for some regions, an indicative list of schemes for possible use in each region.
25. The Panel has therefore proposed this addition of the following guidance to the guidelines for Criteria 1, 2 and 3:
"When selecting a biogeographic regionalization scheme to apply, it is generally most appropriate to use a continental, regional, or supranational scheme rather than a national or subnational one."
26. In addition to existing supranational/regional and global biogeographic regionalization schemes (which generally focus on terrestrial rather than aquatic systems), two initiatives are underway which may prove of significant assistance to Parties. These are:
i) WWF's freshwater ecoregions work; and
ii) work, led by The Nature Conservancy and involving members of the STRP, to review and develop a global coastal and marine eco-regional scheme.
27. The STRP will keep such developments under review, as the basis for potential further development of guidance for the application of Criteria 1, 2 and 3.
2.4 An assessment of current Contracting Party obligations in the context of cultural and socio-economic criteria
28. COP8 (Resolution VIII.10) requested "a full analysis of the implications for Contracting Parties of the implementation of such criteria for the management of Ramsar sites, including Contracting Party obligations and responsibilities."
29. There are three types of obligations that have already been assumed by Contracting Parties relevant to the selection of Ramsar sites:
a) a requirement to maintain the ecological character of Ramsar sites;
b) reporting obligations; and
c) management planning and wise use obligations.
A. Maintenance of ecological character
30. Contracting Parties have assumed obligations (under Resolutions V.2, VI.1, and VIII.8 and the Ramsar Strategic Plan2003-2008, all as related to Article 3 of the Convention) to strive to maintain, as far as possible, the ecological character of Ramsar sites, using management planning and other policy tools.
31. If Criterion 1 and the guidance for its application are amended, as proposed above, so as to encourage the selection of sites on the basis of their ecosystem services, and were a Contracting Party to highlight, in its application of Criterion 1, specific internationally important services (which may include cultural services and/or sustainable socio-economic values and functions of a site), then there would be an obligation to maintain the ecological character of the site such that the specified ecosystem services were maintained.
32. Note, however, that:
a) the obligation to maintain any such services as part of the ecological character of the site would apply only to those sites where these were specifically highlighted as grounds for site qualification under Criterion 1. This would not apply to those sites, previously designated using Criterion 1, where these ecosystem services were not specifically highlighted by the Contracting Party. Thus, any additional maintenance obligation lies at the discretion of the Contracting Party; and
b) such maintenance of ecological character to sustain the features of a Ramsar site's international importance is no different, in principle or practice, to obligations that already exist for these sites. The only substantive change would be that, through highlighting the rôle of specific provisioning, regulating, cultural and/or supporting services as grounds for selection of a Ramsar site under Criterion 1, a Contracting Party would give clearer expression to the need for appropriate management actions (see below) to sustain the specified ecosystem services as part of the ecological character of the site, and thus promote its wise use.
B. Reporting obligations
33. Reporting on issues of cultural and socio-economic importance on Ramsar sites already occurs in the context of:
a) triennial national reports (Resolution II.1 and subsequently); and
b) Ramsar Information Sheets (RIS) and their required updates (Resolution V.3 and subsequently).
34. For the RIS, in principle, the opportunity to report on issues of cultural and socio-economic importance already exists, since this is the subject of RIS section 21.
35. If Criterion 1 and the guidance for its application are amended as proposed, in order to more clearly stress the possibilities for the selection of Ramsar sites on the basis of their provisioning, regulating, cultural and/or supporting services, no new reporting obligations would be created.
C. Management planning and wise use obligations
36. Existing management guidance for Ramsar sites and other wetlands (Resolution V.7 and subsequently as related to Article 3.1 of the Convention, notably Resolution VIII.14) already strongly stresses the importance of cultural and socio-economic considerations in the context of working with local stakeholders. In addition, Resolution VIII.19 established Guiding principles for taking into account the cultural values of wetlands for the effective management of sites which gave explicit guidance to Contracting Parties.
37. If Criterion 1 and the guidance for its application is amended, where a site is cited as important for its provisioning, regulating, cultural and/or supporting services, there would be a firmer expectation that the management objectives for the sites would need to support the maintenance of these specified services. Again, the assumption of this obligation lies with the Contracting Party choosing to designate the site in this way.
38. It would be for any Contracting Party to establish whether these management objectives are compatible with the objectives set for maintenance of ecological aspects of a site's importance, and to take appropriate action if they are not compatible. Fundamentally, however, no new obligations would be created for the management of those Ramsar sites identified on the basis of their cultural or sustainable socio-economic services, or any other services.
2.5 Defining international importance in the application of Criterion 1
39. A key issue in the application of Criterion 1 and its revised guidance is how to define levels of international importance (as opposed to other levels of importance, such as national or local importance).
40. Precise definitions are problematic given the global scope of the Convention and thus of its selection criteria and associated guidance. To this end, the proposed new guidance associated with Criterion 1 highlights the need for proportionality in the application of Criterion 1.
41. Ultimately, it will be for a Contracting Party to assess whether the extent or degree of provisioning, regulating, cultural and/or supporting services provided to maintain the ecological character of any particular wetland is sufficient to justify its designation as a wetland of international importance under Criterion 1.
42. It may be possible that more detailed guidance can be elaborated in the future on the basis of experience gained from the application of the revised Criterion 1. Accordingly, it would be valuable for Contracting Parties choosing to apply Criterion 1 in this way to provide information on their experiences to the STRP.
43. The following ten points summarise the rationale for the proposed amendments to Criterion 1 and its guidelines:
i) As part of the STRP's work to revise terminology used by the Convention, it is proposed that COP9 adopt in [COP9 DR1 Annex A] a revised definition of the term 'ecological character' which corresponds with other international practice and more clearly indicates that various 'ecosystem services' are an integral part of ecological character.
ii) Ecosystem services include cultural values and sustainable socio-economic activities in the sense of Resolution VIII.10.
iii) The application of Criterion 1 of the Convention already encompasses hydrology as an ecosystem service (both as a provisioning and regulating service) with specific guidance given to that effect.
iv) It is accordingly logical, in the light of Resolution VIII.10, to expand the potential application of Criterion 1 to include within its scope other provisioning services (sustainable socio-economic activities) as well as cultural services (= cultural values sensu Res. VIII.10). This will ensure that the intent of the guidance on these matters adopted by Recommendation 4.2 also continues to be fully reflected in the current guidelines.
v) Accordingly, the STRP considers that Criterion 1 can already be used to select sites of international importance for a broader range of their ecosystem services than has generally been applied so far.
vi) Contracting Party obligations for site management following the designation of a site under Criterion 1 relate to the grounds for qualification stated on the Ramsar Information Sheet.
vii) If a Contracting Party highlights that specific ecosystem services (e.g. cultural values and sustainable socio-economic activities) are important ecosystem services when designating a Ramsar site (or revising a Ramsar Information Sheet for a designated site), then there would be an expectation that such ecosystem services would need to be maintained in order to maintain the ecological character of the site.
viii) Such an obligation would not exist for sites already designated under Criterion 1 unless a Contracting Party had explicitly indicated that specified ecosystem services (e.g. cultural values and sustainable socio-economic activities) were included in the grounds for qualification under Criterion 1.
ix) Additional short guidance on the appropriate spatial scales to use in applying biogeographic regionalization schemes to Criterion 1 (and Criteria 2 and 3) is being proposed.
x) Finally, a minor modification of the wording of Criterion 1 is being proposed which would better allow its application in anthropogenically (culturally) modified landscapes.
2. Rationale for additional guidance for applying Criteria 5 and 6
44. Ramsar Criteria 5 and 6 (the two quantitiative Criteria for waterbirds) are among the most frequently applied of the Ramsar site selection criteria. A small number of issues in the application of these Criteria have arisen in recent years, for which additional guidance on their application would be desirable.
45. These relate to:
- the issue of population turnover (especially during migratory periods) in assessing the total number of individual waterbirds using a site;
- the definition of the term "assemblage";
- the selection of appropriate 1% thresholds (Criterion 6) where more than one population of the same species may occur on a site simultaneously; and
- the selection of 1% thresholds (Criterion 6) for very large populations.
46. New guidance addressing each these issues has been prepared by the STRP and is proposed for inclusion in the revised Strategic Framework.
3. Rationale for a quantitative Criterion for non-avian animal taxa - new Criterion 9
47. The Convention's "1%" criterion (Criterion 6) has been an effective means of identifying Wetlands of International Importance supporting waterbird populations since its adoption early in the life of the Convention (Heiligenhafen conference, 1974).
48. The issue of the potential for developing a quantitative criterion or criteria for taxa other than waterbirds has been the subject of reviews and discussion since COP3 in 1987, and was also examined at both COP4 (1990) and COP5 (1993).
49. There is no fundamental biological reason to take 1% of a population of waterbirds as the threshold level for establishing the international importance of a site. However, this percentage has been found by long experience and evaluation to give an appropriate degree of safeguard to waterbird populations and to assist in the definition of ecologically sensible sites. In addition to its formal adoption by Ramsar's Contracting Parties, the criterion has gained wide acceptance throughout the world, in a range of other conservation science contexts, including in the application in Europe of the European Union "Birds Directive" and the designation of Special Protection Areas under this instrument.
50. The application of this Criterion is recognized as working only for those waterbirds that tend to concentrate during at least one stage in their annual cycle. This is also a desirable feature because those species that congregate will, by definition, be those dependent on a relatively small proportion of the total territory and therefore be vulnerable to changes to that limited area in which they occur. Aggregating species also tend to be those with specialised ecological requirements which will usually be met at a limited number of locations that are traditionally (regularly) used.
51. The application of this criterion depends both on having data on numbers of waterbirds using a particular site and on being able to calculate the proportion that this comprises of an overall biogeographic (international) population.
52. Similar constraints will apply to any similar quantitative Criterion for non-avian taxa (Stroud 2005 [note 4]). It will work effectively in some circumstances (for some species) and be ineffective in others (certainly for similar reasons, but probably for others as well). Its lack of complete efficiency is not a fundamental problem: complete efficiency for all non-avian species would not be expected, as, similarly, Criterion 6 is not effective for all waterbirds (or arguably even most waterbird populations).
53. One of the elements in STRP's work plan for 2002-2005 was to explore whether it is feasible to extend this quantitiative percentage of population concept to other taxa, probably in the first instance to some taxa of wetland animals.
54. Furthermore, Decision VII/4 of the CBD's COP7 invited the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention and Ramsar's STRP to, inter alia:
a) further elaborate the guidelines on existing criteria for the following features:
iv) Wetlands that support important populations of taxonomic groups with wetland-dependent species, including, inter alia, amphibians; and
b) consider the development of additional criteria, including, as appropriate, quantitative criteria.
55. STRP's assessment has concluded that a 1% criterion for certain non-avian taxa would be a feasible, and useful, addition to Ramsar's site selection criteria.
56. A key element of the success of Criterion 6 for waterbirds has been the availability of peer-reviewed assessments of the size of biogeographic populations. These reviews were considered in an ad hoc way at early Ramsar COPs. An international workshop in 1995 made recommendations concerning the formalization of the review process, and these were endorsed by COP6 in 1996 (Resolution VI.4). The Waterbird Population Estimates series published in 1994, 1997 and 2002 by Wetlands International have since provided a global collation of waterbird population sizes and recommended 1% thresholds for use in the application of Criterion 6. Waterbird Population Estimates is proposed to be updated for each COP as a standing report in the context of Article 6.2(e) of the Convention.
57. Two important principles for developing a quantitiative non-avian Criterion are that:
i) as for the waterbird 1% thresholds, it is important that (for greatest cost-effectiveness) any process established to support a new Criterion 9 should capitalise on existing international data collection and collation mechanisms for the relevant taxa; and
ii) any newly established processes should follow general principles already established for processes of updating 1% thresholds for the application of Criterion 6 (e.g., the importance of consultation and peer review prior to adoption, audit trails for data sources, and frequency of update).
58. The following process is recommended in STRP's proposals to COP9:
i) Adoption at COP9 of a new Criterion 9 for the selection of Wetlands of International Importance on the basis of their importance for 1% of a biogeographical population of certain wetland-dependent non-avian animal taxa. The proposed new Criterion 9 is that:
"A wetland should be considered internationally important if it regularly supports 1% of the individuals in a population of one species or subspecies of wetland-dependent non-avian animal species".
ii) The Criterion should be applied only to those species and populations for which reliable population size data is available and published, thus for which a 1% threshold can be recommended. A list of these 1% thresholds should be compiled and published as a Ramsar Technical Report so as to be available to Contracting Parties and others involved in identification and designation of Ramsar sites. The content of this report will accordingly be restricted to a selection of wetland-dependent fauna.
iii) For COP10 (and subsequent COPs), the production (by IUCN-Species Survival Commission's Specialist Groups, coordinated by the STRP) of a significantly expanded list of populations of animal species with 1% thresholds should be prepared for publication as a Ramsar Technical Report.
iv) The content of these Reports will thus define the taxonomic scope of application of the proposed new Criterion.
v) This Ramsar Technical Report would be updated for each future COP, both in terms of revision of data on species and populations already listed and of the addition of new species and populations for which new data and information have become available. As for Waterbird Population Estimates, this update process would include international consultation as to the best available estimates for the taxa concerned - and thus be internationally peer-reviewed.
vi) It is envisaged that IUCN-SSC and its Specialist Groups will take a leading rôle in this triennial update process as follows:
a) Where new data become available, there are now annual updates of the IUCN Red List using evaluations undertaken by IUCN-SSC SGs. There is a decadal process now in place to systematically review and update status information on major taxonomic groups (e.g., mammals, amphibians). This update frequency is similar to the nine-year update cycle established by the Ramsar Convention for waterbird 1% thresholds.
b) Information supporting IUCN's review process should be available via its Species Information Service (SIS), which will represent an internationally peer-reviewed source of 'best-estimates' derived from the work of relevant Specialist Groups.
c) Although currently under development, IUCN's SIS will be in a position to output relevant estimates in advance of Ramsar COPs for the COP10 update of Criterion 9's supporting Ramsar Technical Report.
d) A small amount of time will be required to handle coordination of the update process for the Ramsar Technical Report in terms of receiving and publishing outputs already collated by the SIS a suitable period in advance of a COP. This can be assumed as an ongoing low-cost STRP task.
e) There is a range of options for the publication of population data to support Criterion 9, from minimal cost (a Web-published PDF format list) to a more expensive hard-copy publication (cf. Waterbird Population Estimates). In the first instance, dissemination of supporting estimates and thresholds via a Web-published, minimally formatted Ramsar Technical Report is recommended.
1. STRP and Standing Committee is proposing to COP9 that "Ecological Character" is redefined as: "the combination of the ecosystem components, processes and services that characterize the wetland at a given point in time." [COP9 DR1 Annex A]
2. Finlayson, C.M., D'Cruz, R. & Davidson, N.C. 2005. Synthesis report. Wetlands and water: ecosystem service and human well-being. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. World Resources Institute, Washington D.C.
3. Bold emphasis added. Note that in this context the hydrological, biological, or ecological rôle referred to includes ecosystem components, processes and services amongst which are sustainable socio-economic activities and cultural values.
4. Stroud, D.A. 2005. Selecting Ramsar sites: the development of criteria for the identification and designation of Wetlands of International Importance 1971-2005. Ramsar Technical Report (in prep.).
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