Sweden's National Strategy for Thriving Wetlands

31/01/2007

Sweden's national wetland strategy adopted

The Swedish focal points Ann Wahlström and Torsten Larsson inform the Ramsar Secretariat that the Parliament has established 16 environmental quality objectives to guide Sweden towards a sustainable society. All sectors are involved in the implementation of these objectives, aiming to solve the major environmental problems within one generation.

The environmental quality objective “Thriving Wetlands” sets the framework to maintain the ecological and water-conserving functions of wetlands in the landscape and to preserve valuable wetlands for the future. It has five interim targets (by 2005/2010) concerning 1) the elaboration of a national strategy for wetland protection and management, 2) a mire protection plan to provide long-term protection for listed sites, 3) an interdiction to construct forest roads which affect wetland with significant natural or cultural assets, 4) the establishment and restoration of at least 12,000 ha of wetlands and ponds on agricultural land, and 5) the preparation of action programmes for threatened species in need of targeted measures.

A national strategy for the conservation, restoration, establishment and management of wetlands (corresponding to the interim target 1) has been adopted jointly by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (Naturvårdsverket – the Ramsar Authority), the Board of Agriculture, the Forest Agency and the National Heritage Board, after consultation with the County Administrative Boards and other authorities, as well as stakeholder organizations and NGOs. The purpose of the strategy is to establish the necessary conditions for achieving the objective of “Thriving Wetlands by the year 2020”. It is intended to contribute to the fulfillment of Sweden’s obligations under the Ramsar Convention and the Convention on Biodiversity. The proposed measures also contribute to the objectives entitled “Zero Eutrophication”, “A Varied Agricultural Landscape”, “Flourishing Lakes and Streams”, “Sustainable Forests”, “A Rich Diversity of Plant and Animal Life”, and ultimatively “A Balanced Marine Environment” and “Good-Quality Groundwater”.

Basic elements of the strategy are the conservation, use and restoration of the biodiversity and valuable cultural features associated with Sweden’s various types of wetlands in a landscape perspective. The overall wetland area shall not be reduced and the need for compensatory measures shall be taken into consideration. Wetlands with high nature conservation and cultural heritage values and with intact hydrology need to be conserved. Subsidiarity and local community participation are guiding principles for working with wetlands. Emphasis is put on the integration of wetland restoration measures into regional landscape strategies and corresponding planning processes. This should also be considered as helping to fulfill the objectives of the European Union Water Framework Directive.

Amongst others, specific measures for the sustainable use of wetlands address wetland forests with high nature conservation values and suitable methods for their use and the avoidance of damage to wetlands from new forest roads and off-road vehicles. All mires included in Sweden’s Mire Protection Plan shall be exempt from peat extraction, which should only occur in mires that have already been heavily affected by ditching or previous peat harvesting. High value wetlands, and previously not limed wetlands, should not be treated with lime (to counterbalance the effects of acid rain). Outdoor recreation, hunting and fishing need to be channeled and conducted so as to minimize their impacts on wetlands.

The strategy has chapters addressing the inventory and assessment of high conservation value wetlands. It stresses that greater emphasis should be given to the restoration and (re-)establishment of new wetlands through filling in ditches, damming and digging. Increased coordination at the planning stage is needed between the interests of fishery and nature conservation. New methods should be tested and evaluated in terms of their relative costs.

In the long term, it is essential that a majority of Sweden’s citizens have a good knowledge, an active interest and strong emotional links with valuable natural and cultural heritage features in the landscape. Increased awareness among authorities and the general public of the various wetland functions is important to achieve the objective of “Thriving Wetlands”. As part of an EU-funded project, the Västra Götaland County Administrative Board is studying the establishment of a wetland centre. More Ramsar Sites should be designated in central and northern Sweden. The strategy defines the roles and responsibilities for the Environmental Protection Agency, the Forest Agency, the Board of Agriculture, the National Heritage Board, the County Administrative Boards, the national rail traffic authority and road administration, the Board of Fisheries, the municipalities, non-profit organizations and owners and users of land and drainage companies.

A comprehensive programme to fulfill Sweden’s obligations under the Ramsar Convention – and suggestions for future approaches to achieve the environmental quality objective “Thriving Wetlands” will be developed further during this year.

The strategy can be order or downloaded from http://www.naturvardsverket.se/bokhandeln/dse/620-1254-1.

-- Tobias Salathé, Ramsar

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