World Wetlands Day -- UNESCO Water Portal Weekly Update


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2 February 2007

2005–2015 is the International Decade for Action ‘Water for Life’

2 February: World Wetlands Day ‘Fish for tomorrow’
‘Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis’: a new assessment of the state of knowledge on climate change
Report of the symposium on 'Arsenic in Groundwater - A World Problem'
AquaTerra 2007 - World Forum on Delta and Coastal Development
Ozwater 2007 Conference and Exhibition
4th Asian Regional Conference and 10th International Seminar on Participatory Irrigation Management (PIM)
7th World General Assembly of the International Network of Basin Organizations
4th International Conference on Fog, Fog Collection and Dew
4th International Conference on Debris-Flow Hazards Mitigation (DFHM)
Did you know...? Facts and figures about wetlands
Publications related to wetlands
Links about wetlands


2 February: World Wetlands Day ‘Fish for tomorrow’

World Wetlands Day, celebrated on 2 February of each year, commemorates the 1971 signing of the Ramsar Convention of Wetlands in the city of Ramsar, Iran. The Ramsar Convention provides a framework for international cooperation in the conservation and sustainable management of wetlands.

Fish for Tomorrow, the slogan for World Wetlands Day 2007, is one that touches almost all of us: one billion people rely on fish and shellfish as their main or even sole source of protein, and most of us include fish as part of our regular diet. Yet marine fisheries and many inland stocks are currently being overfished or are being fished at their biological limits, and the demand for fish will continue to grow as the global population increases. 95% of those involved in the fishing industry live in developing countries and the majority are small-scale fishers: their livelihoods depend on making sure that there will be fish for tomorrow.

This World Wetlands Day will be an opportunity for all to look at local and national fisheries issues, and to make that vital link between healthy, well-managed coastal and inland wetlands and the long-term sustainability of fisheries. The potential solutions to the problems facing the world's fisheries are many, and while some of them require international cooperation, many depend on national and local commitment.

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Wetlands include a wide variety of habitats such as marshes, peatlands, floodplains, rivers and lakes, and coastal areas such as saltmarshes, mangroves, and seagrass beds, but also coral reefs and other marine areas no deeper than six metres at low tide, as well as human-made wetlands such as waste-water treatment ponds and reservoirs.
The Convention on Wetlands is an intergovernmental treaty adopted on 2 February 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar. Thus, though nowadays the name of the Convention is usually written ‘Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971)’, it has come to be known popularly as the ‘Ramsar Convention’. Its mission is ‘the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local, regional and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world.
As of December 2006, 153 nations have joined the Ramsar Convention as Contracting Parties, and more than 1600 wetlands around the world, covering over 145 million hectares (larger than the surface area of France, Germany, Spain, and Switzerland combined), have been designated for inclusion in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance.
Five major wetland types are generally recognized:
- marine (coastal wetlands including coastal lagoons, rocky shores, and coral reefs)
- estuarine (including deltas, tidal marshes, and mangrove swamps)
- lacustrine (wetlands associated with lakes)
- riverine (wetlands along rivers and streams)
- palustrine (meaning ‘marshy’ - marshes, swamps and bogs).

· How much of the earth’s surface is presently composed of wetlands is not known exactly. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)-World Conservation Monitoring Centre has suggested an estimate of about 5.7 million km2 – roughly 6% of the Earth’s land surface – of which 2% are lakes, 30% bogs, 26% fens, 20% swamps, and 15% floodplains.

· Wetlands are among the world’s most productive environments. They are cradles of biological diversity, providing the water and primary productivity upon which countless species of plants and animals depend for survival. They support high concentrations of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrate species. Wetlands are also important storehouses of plant genetic material.

· Some recent studies have indicated that ecosystems provide at least US$ 33 trillion worth of services annually, of which about US$ 4.9 trillion are attributed to wetlands.

· Wetlands contain only 10% of the water found in lakes and other surface waters.

· Wetlands act as sponges, absorbing excess water in times of heavy rain and high tides and releasing water slowly during dry periods.

· An often quoted estimate is that about 50% of the wetlands that existed in 1900 had been lost by the late 1990s as a result of the conversion of land to agriculture.

· Given high population densities, increased rates of deforestation (particularly in Indonesia) and the large degree of ecosystem fragmentation in India, which has more than 4,000 dams, Southeast Asia’s wetlands are probably the most degraded in the world.

Information from the Ramsar Convention Manual ( and from the 2nd UN World Water Development Report: 'Water, a shared responsibility'


The Ramsar Convention Manual. A Guide to the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971) (4th edition). By Ramsar Convention Secretariat. © 2006, Ramsar Convention Secretariat

The Ramsar Manual was first prepared in 1994 and has been revised several times to account for subsequent developments. This 4th edition provides an overview of the Ramsar Convention and describes its history and present structures, the services it provides, the workings of the Conference of the Contracting Parties (COP), the Standing Committee, the Scientific and Technical Review Panel, the Secretariat, and relations with other environmental institutions. The Manual also includes: brief descriptions to the guidance documents adopted by the Parties through COP-9 in 2005; a list of all the COP’s Resolutions and Recommendations; and the text of the Convention.
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Ramsar Handbooks for the Wise Use of Wetlands (2nd edition) By Ramsar Convention Secretariat. © Ramsar Convention Secretariat 2004.

This series of Handbooks has been prepared by the Secretariat following the 7th and 8th Meetings of the Conference of the Contracting Parties (COP7 and COP8) held in Costa Rica, in May 1999 and Spain, in November 2002. The guidelines are being published as a series of handbooks to assist those with an interest in, or directly involved with, implementation of the Convention at the international, regional, national, subnational and local levels.

The handbooks incorporate, in addition to the guidelines adopted by the Parties, relevant material from other sources and from case studies designed to illustrate key aspects of the guidelines. The Ramsar Convention promotes an integrated package of actions to ensure the conservation and wise use of wetlands. In recognition of these integrated approaches, the reader will find that within each handbook there are numerous signposts or cross-references to others in the series.

:: Access the full handbooks


The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands

The Convention on Wetlands is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.

This website contains information about the wetlands, the Convention, the Ramsar List and access to links, web archives and a photo gallery.

Mediterranean Wetlands Initiative (MedWet)

MedWet is a forum where 25 Mediterranean countries, specialized wetland centres and international environmental organizations meet to discuss, identify key issues and take positive action to protect wetlands, for man and for biodiversity.

This website contains news, links, publications and information about projects, events and vacancies.

Wetlands International

Wetlands International is a global non-profit organization dedicated to wetland conservation and sustainable management.

This website contains information about wetlands and its relation with livelihoods, biodiversity and climate change; news, events, and a photo gallery, among other things.

Wetlands and Water Resources Programme of the World Conservation Union (IUCN)

The Wetlands and Water Resources Programme of IUCN aims to improve the conservation and sustainable use of freshwater and tidal wetlands, so that these ecosystems meet the needs of human society and make a greater contribution to the conservation of biological diversity.

The website has information about wetlands problems, publications, projects and links.

Society of Wetlands Scientists

The Society of Wetland Scientists is a non-profit organization founded in 1980 to promote wetland science and the exchange of information related to wetlands.

This website contains links, events, publications and awards.

Duke University Wetland Centre (United States)

The goal of this centre is to provide sound scientific knowledge that will lead to sustainable wetland functions and values for the United States and the world.

This website contains links, news and projects.

Centre of Excellence in Wetland Hydrology (WETHYDRO)

The main objectives of this Centre are to derive nature protection goals including anthropogenic influences (e.g., extensive agriculture) and their impact on water management (in wetlands and in the catchments) and define terms of sustainability for wetland areas.

This website contains information about projects, workshops, short courses and conferences.


WetKit is a web-based tool kit designed to streamline access to practical tools that can help Canadians and kids around the world better understand and manage wetlands. WetKit showcases a wealth of wetland tools and explains how each one can help conserve wetlands.

This website contains answer to questions like: What are wetlands? Why are wetlands important? What is happening to wetlands? How can my actions affect wetlands? How can wetlands benefit me? How can I help to sustain wetlands? It also offers news, publications, links and different education tools.

:: For a complete list of water links around the world visit

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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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