"Looking at wetlands from space" -- ESA symposium for October 2006


Organised by: European Space Agency & Ramsar Convention Secretariat


Earth's wetlands are vital to the water cycle and havens for wildlife, but they are under threat. For much of the 20th Century, wetlands were drained or otherwise degraded worldwide. Growing understanding of the vital importance of wetlands led to the signing of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in 1971. Today more than 1596 wetlands - a total area of 135 million hectares - have been designated as Wetlands of International Importance. The Ramsar Convention's 152 national signatories have committed to maintaining the ecological character and are obliged to report on the state of listed wetlands they have designated.

Achieving the Vision of the Ramsar Convention ("the conservation and wise use of wetlands by national action and international cooperation as a means to achieving sustainable development throughout the world") through the application of the Convention's wise use concept, the identification, designation and sustainable management of Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar sites) and international cooperation is a complex and challenging task. It requires that all the national and international bodies involved in the implementation of the Convention have access to suitable information to better understand wetland areas, their processes and their significance in the global environment, to manage efficiently wetland areas so that they may yield the greatest continuous benefit to present and future generations and promote their conservation and protection worldwide. Existing and future Earth Observation (EO) technology may play an increasingly important role in supporting these activities.

Over the last few decades, EO images, with increasing capabilities in terms of spatial, temporal and spectral resolution, has becoming more accessible to a larger community of users, allowing day-by-day a more affordable, efficient and reliable monitoring of the environment over time at global, regional and local scales. In this context, the European Space Agency in Collaboration with the Ramsar Convention has launched a number of projects aimed at exploring and demonstrating the benefits of EO technology to achieving the objectives of the Ramsar Convention. The GlobWetland project has been addressing this issue by using satellite imagery to provide detailed wide-area views of individual wetlands to aid national and local conservation efforts across 50 sites in 21 countries worldwide.


The GlobWetland Symposium aims at bringing together and strengthening links between the different actors involved in the implementation of the Ramsar Convention (Governments, wetland managers, NGOs and the conservation scientific community) and the Earth Observation Scientific and Industrial communities in order to define the current state of the art on the use of EO for wetlands management and draft a coordinated plan for future research, scientific and policy-relevant activities.

1. Review the main targets of the Ramsar Convention, where EO may contribute;

2. Review the achievements of the Glob Wetland and other related projects from:

o The technical view point (what EO can do today) and
o The user perspective (How wetland managers can integrate and use EO-derived information into management plans).

3. Review the latest developments and progress in research concerning the use of EO for the
inventorying, monitoring and assessment of wetlands. This includes:

o Wetlands identification;
o Land use and land cover mapping of wetland areas;
o Assessing change in wetland status/ecological character;
o Biophysical parameters and ecological indicators;
o Water quality in coastal and shallow waters;
o Wetlands Hydrology;
o Global mapping and assessment of wetlands;
o Wetlands in a Global Climate Variability;

4. Identify the key scientific, technical and policy-relevant challenges for the future


The conference aims to bring together the wetlands conservation and EO communities. Therefore, the symposium is open to representatives of governments (e.g., ministries of environment, environmental agencies), wetland managers, NGOs, conservation and wetland scientists and the EO scientific and industrial communities. It will provide a unique opportunity to confront the views and challenges of both communities and contribute to launch coordinated research and scientific actions.


• The Symposium is organised around oral and poster presentations.
• Sessions will be designed around dedicated topics related to the Symposium objectives.
• Presenters of both oral and poster presentations are required to submit full papers.
• Proceedings will be published by ESA.
• A summary report of the main findings and recommendations from each session will be given and
discussed in a closing plenary session.
• The official language of the Symposium is English.
• No participation/registration fee will be charged. Participants are expected to finance their own travel and accommodation expenses.

Submission of abstracts: 30 June 2006
Registration deadline: 1 September 2006
through the Symposium Web site at http://www.congrex.nl/06A11.

Contact: Carmen Comparetto, ESA Conference Bureau, esa.conference.bureau@esa.int.

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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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