The Ramsar Bulletin Board, 17 September 2008

Celebrations for Austrian-German cooperation. On September 4th 2008, a ceremony took place at the "Austrian-Bavarian Wildalm" Transboundary Ramsar Site, a large mire area situated at 1430 meters asl. covering the whole bottom and the slopes of a karst depression or polje with a natural brook that vanishes into a ponor. The site comprises the two Ramsar sites -- the bog Bayerische Wildalm and Wildalmfilz in Tyrol, Austria, and Bayerische Wildalm in Bavaria, Germany, and the complex supports several endangered plant species. The regional affairs officer of the Ramsar Secretariat, Alexia Dufour, presented diplomas to the Bavarian Secretary of Environment, Marcel Huber, and the Tyrolean Landeshauptmann, Hannes Gschwentner, at the Gufferhütte, Tyrol, a mountain refuge, starting point of excellent hiking trails to the site. Congratulations to Austria and Germany for this initiative of great interest for the promotion of international collaboration for the conservation and wise use of wetlands! HERE [17/09/08]

Himalayan Initiative drafts strategy. The 6th meeting of the Himalayan Wetland Initiative, organized by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and funded by the Asia Pro Eco Europe Aid Cooperative Office, was held in Kathmandu, Nepal, from 1st to 3rd September, 2008. The main objective was to complete the draft of a strategy for the Himalayan Wetland Initiative so that Contracting Parties in the Himalayan region can consider and endorse the final version during COP10 at the end of October. Here is a report, with photographs, from Ramsar's Lew Young. [17/09/08]

Japan Wetland Society launched. "Dear Forum members, Greetings from Japan. The Japan Wetland Society (JAWS) was officially established on 6th September 2008. The inauguration ceremony was held in Tokyo and Prof Tsujii (President of the WI Japan) was selected as the first President of the Society. Among the Board members of the Society are Prof Masatomi (crane expert), Prof Isozaki (environmental laws), Prof Kikuchi (the head of the Japanese delegation at Ramsar COP5), Ms Nakamura (Ramsar Center Japan), Mr Natori (UNU). There were 42 co-founders of the Society including Prof Kawanabe (Director of the Lake Biwa Museum), Prof Higuchi, Prof Washitani, Prof Fujikura, Dr Komoda, Mr Tsuji (President of JAWAN), Mr Kurechi. Other leading wetland researchers, active NGO members and wetland managers throughout Japan have expressed their interests in joining the Japan Wetland Society. The Society aims to promote wetland-related researches and conservation and wise use of wetlands.

Although the Society is still in its embryonic stage, we would like to seek some ways to cooperate with other Ramsar- and wetland- related bodies in other countries in not too distant future." -- Satoshi Kobayashi, Ph.D., Kushiro Public University ( [17/09/08]

Bosnia & Herzegovina names 3rd Ramsar site. The government of Bosnia & Herzegovina has designated “Livanjsko Polje (Livno karst field)” (45,868 hectares, 43°53’N 016°47’E) in Hercegbosanska canton as its third Wetland of International Importance. As summarized by Ramsar’s Monica Zavagli, based on the accompanying Ramsar Information Sheet, the new site is the largest karst depression in the Dinaric karst region and perhaps the largest periodically flooded karst field in the world. It comprises seasonally flooded agricultural land and alluvial forest, seasonal marshes and pools, permanent streams, karst springs and sinkholes, and the largest peatland in the Balkans. Together with the Sava wetlands, it is the most important wintering, migration, and breeding site for waterbirds and raptors in the country and a key site along the Central European Flyway. The polje is important for the identify of the local community of Livno, well-known for its traditional cheeses, and for a wide range of recreational pursuits. Threats include water extraction for energy production, a planned coal-fired thermoelectric plant, and unsustainable peat excavation.  [16/09/08]

Germany's National Wetland Committee. A meeting of the German National Wetland Committee was held on September 3rd, 2008, at the Ministry of Environment in Bonn, Germany. About twenty people, representatives of the federal Ministry of Environment, some Federal States (Länder), WWF-Germany, NGOs, the Bundesamt für Naturschutz (federal Agency for nature protection) and a representative of the Ramsar Secretariat attended the meeting. Here is a very brief summary of the event from Ramsar's Alexia Dufour. [16/09/08]

Study shows migratory waterbird declines. A study showing declines of 41 per cent of migratory waterbird populations along their main migration routes in Africa and Eurasia is presented to the Fourth Meeting of the Parties to AEWA (MOP4) in Antananarivo, Madagascar this week (15-19 September 2008).  The report: “Conservation Status of Migratory Waterbirds in the African-Eurasian Flyways” prepared by Wetlands International for the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA) is being presented to delegates from over 80 countries attending an intergovernmental meeting which began in Antananarivo today. The study reveals that 41 % of the known trends for 522 migratory waterbird populations on the routes across Africa and Eurasia show decreasing trends. The situation is even worse for waterbirds using Western and Central Asian Flyways, where 55 % of populations with known trends are currently declining. . . . Simon Delany, Waterbird Conservation Officer at the Netherlands-based Headquarters of Wetlands International and principal author of the report, said: “The main causes of declining waterbird numbers along the African-Eurasian Flyways are the destruction and unsustainable exploitation of wetlands, which are largely driven by poorly-planned economic development.” Press release (PDF). [15/09/08]

Floods at Nepal's Koshi Tappu Ramsar site. The Secretariat has recently received a report from the Ramsar Administrative Authority in Nepal informing us of the devastating impact of the Koshi River breaking its defensive embankment in mid-August, flooding and affecting 60,000 people in Nepal and another 3 million people in neighbouring Bihar State, India. Before the break in the embankment, the Koshi River was also the source of the water for the Koshi Tappu, Nepal's first Ramsar site, but only 20% of the water now reaches the site because of the change in the course of the river. Whilst much humanitarian aid is now being given to help the people affected by the flood, the Secretariat is also communicating with the Ramsar Administrative Authority in Nepal to see what assistance can be given to assess the impact to the Koshi Tappu Ramsar site and make suggestions for the future conservation of the site. The report from Dr Annapurna Nand Das of the Dept. of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation can be seen here (PDF), and some photos and a satellite image of the flooding, here. [11/09/08]

OCHA teams to Haiti and the Turks and Caicos. “Dear Mr Tiega and colleagues, Please be informed that, upon request of the national authorities/UN Residenct Coordinator, two UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) teams have been deployed to Haiti and the Turks and Caicos Islands, respectively, in response to Hurricanes/Tropical Storms Gustav, Hanna and Ike. In the context of these disasters, impact on the wetlands on these islands may be of particular concern. Both teams have an environmental expert among their members to identify any life threatening/urgent environmental issues: Mr. Olivier Bruyere (UN DSS) is part of the UNDAC team for Haiti, and Cecilia Morales, of UNEP PCDMB, is part of the team for the Turks and Caicos Islands. Please do not hesitate to contact me or my colleagues with any questions concerning the above. Best regards,” -- Ms. Mirja Peters, Environmental Emergencies Unit (joint UNEP/OCHA) Emergency Preparedness Section, Emergency Services Branch Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland ( [08/09/08]

International migratory waterbird conference in Madagascar. Over 150 representatives of government and non-governmental organizations as well as waterbird experts from 80 countries will meet in Antananarivo, Madagascar, 15-19 September 2008 to discuss urgent conservation responses necessary to reverse the declines of many migratory waterbird species along the African-Eurasian Flyways. “Flyway conservation at work – review of the past, vision for the future” is the theme of the Fourth Meeting of the Parties (MOP4) to the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (UNEP/AEWA) – the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)-backed treaty dedicated to the conservation of species such as ducks, waders, storks, flamingos and many other migratory waterbirds that use the major bird migration routes along the African-Eurasian Flyways.

Highlights of the meeting will include the release of new population trends for all AEWA protected waterbird species (Status Report); the presentation of a new study on the effects of climate change on migratory waterbirds; more than 21 Resolutions on a number of issues affecting migratory waterbirds in Africa and Eurasia, such as the spread of Avian Influenza (H5N1), lead shot hunting in wetlands, and climate change; and more.  For more information contact: Mr. Florian Keil, Information Officer, UNEP/AEWA Secretariat, or visit AEWA’s press page: Today’s press release on MOP4 is available here inand. [04/09/08]

A new Ramsar site for Colombia. The government of Colombia has designated its fifth Wetland of International Importance, a high Andean site (between 3,300 and 4,850 metres above sea level) in the central mountains. As summarized by Ramsar’s Mila Llorens from the RIS data, Complejo de Humedales Laguna del Otún (6,579 hectares, 04º45’N 075º25’W) in Risaralda department is a complex of wetlands located within the Los Nevados National Natural Park in the Central Andes of Colombia. It includes lagoons, swamps, peatlands interconnected or functionally related with one another and influenced by glaciers and páramo vegetation. The site is home to 52 species of birds, of which the most vulnerable are the aquatic species Oxyura jamaicensis andina and Podiceps occipitalis juninensis, with reduced populations and very localized distribution in Colombia – this makes them more susceptible to the degradation of their habitats, generated mainly by agricultural and livestock expansion. Other endangered bird species include Vultur gryphus, Hapalopsittaca fuertesi and Ognorhynchus icteriotis. Among the important flora species found in the site are Espeletia hartwegiana centroandina, Podocarpus oleifolius and Polylepis sericea, which are also found under special protection. In July 2006, the site suffered a fire that damaged more than 3,000 ha. A restoration plan is ongoing.

Support for this site designation was provided to the authorities by WWF International’s Freshwater Programme through WWF-Colombia, as a contribution to the Ramsar Regional Initiative on High Andean Wetlands. WWF-Colombia’s press release on this and a recent Ramsar designation in Ecuador can be seen here (PDF). The photo of Otún above is by Jorge Lotero / PNN. [26/08/08]

New Transboundary Ramsar Site. The Secretariat is very pleased to announce that on 7 August 2008 the governments of Austria and Germany have notified us that “in line with Article 5 of the Convention on Wetlands and Resolution VII.19 on international cooperation, we jointly request [the Secretariat] to register the following wetland site as a Transboundary Ramsar Site: ‘Austrian-Bavarian Wildalm'”. Comprising the existing Ramsar sites ‘Bayerische Wildalm and Wildalmfilz’ (designated in 2004) in Tyrol, Austria, and ‘Bayerische Wildalm’ (designated 2007) in Bavaria, Germany, the wetland is a remarkable peatland concentration in a karst depression, or polje, with many endangered plant species. A ceremony is planned for 4 September at the site in order to “highlight our cooperation and the Ramsar Convention to the public”, and it is hoped that a member of the Secretariat staff will be able to make the travel arrangements to participate. The instrument of notification can be seen here (PDF), and the list of existing Transboundary Ramsar Sites is here. [25/08/08]

Important developments at Ichkeul, Tunisia. Ichkeul in Tunisia is generally recognized (with Camargue in France, Doñana in Spain, and El Kala in Algeria) as one of the four major wetlands of the western Mediterranean basin. It has been listed as a National Park in Tunisia and recognized at international level as a World Heritage site, a Ramsar site and a MAB reserve. Mike Smart reports on recent developments there and argues that the Tunisian authorities should be warmly congratulated by the international community on this major and long-awaited action for the restoration of the original ecological conditions at Ichkeul. [22/08/08]

Réalisations importantes à Ichkeul en Tunisie. Le lac et les marais d’Ichkeul en Tunisie sont généralement considérés (avec la Camargue en France, Doñana en Espagne, et la région d’El Kala en Algérie) comme étant une des quatre principales zones humides du bassin occidental de la Méditerranée. Le Parc national de l’Ichkeul a été établi et, au niveau international, Ichkeul a été inscrit comme site du Patrimoine international, comme Réserve de la Biosphère et comme zone humide d’importance internationale sur la Liste de la Convention de Ramsar. Les autorités tunisiennes méritent les félicitations chaleureuses de la communauté internationale sur l’exécution de cette action majeure et longtemps attendue en faveur de la restauration des conditions écologiques originales d’Ichkeul.

Ramsar Mission report on Lake Natron. Tanzania’s Lake Natron Basin  was added to the Ramsar List in 2001 as a representative example of a Rift Valley soda lake that is the only significant and regular breeding site for the East African population of lesser flamingo Phoenicopterus minor. This population represents over 75% of the world population of this species. Ramsar Advisory Mission (RAM) No. 59, comprising Ramsar, CMS, and AEWA experts in a joint effort, took place from 17 to 29 February 2008 to provide advice to the Tanzanian government concerning the wise use and future management of the Lake Natron site, with particular reference to the proposed development of a soda ash facility that would abstract liquid brine from Lake Natron and process it nearby.

Based on its consultations, the RAM advised the Ramsar, CMS and AEWA Secretariats to recommend to the Ministers of Environment and Natural Resources and Tourism that the review of the ESIA submitted by Lake Natron Resources Limited in September 2007 be suspended, because the RAM encountered a significant number of unanswered questions that require further clarification before an informed decision can be taken by the Government of Tanzania on the proposed soda ash facility. The 44-page RAM report summarizes the situation in great detail and analyzes all of the potential solutions. [20/08/08]

World Wetlands Day 2009. It's not too early to begin thinking about it. “Upstream – Downstream”. Wetlands connect us all. Our suggested theme for this year is river basins and their management. We all live in a river basin (or drainage basin, catchment, watershed, etc.), and most of the people reading this are well aware of the challenges of managing it – and particularly the challenge of making sure that the basin planners think of wetlands and not just water in their planning.

We hope that WWD this year, 2 February 2009 or thereabouts, will be an opportunity for people to look around at their own wetland and its interconnections with the environment around it – how the wetland benefits the surroundings and, of course, how activities throughout the river basin may affect their wetland. Read more here about what the Secretariat is planning to make available. [07/08/08]

Argentina names important flamingo site. The government of Argentina has designated that country’s 17th Ramsar site, bringing the area covered by the Convention there to more than 4 million hectares. As summarized by Mila Llorens, Assistant Advisor for the Americas, Humedal Laguna Melincué (92,000 hectares, 33°43’S 061°30’W) is a Multiple Use Reserve in Santa Fe province. The lagoon constitutes a wetland of regional and continental relevance, and it is of great importance for resident and migratory species. It is one of the two floodplain wetlands that support one of the most important populations of the Andean Flamingo (Phoenicopterus andinus) in its winter distribution. This species is considered to be the rarest of the five flamingo species found at a global level. Among the wetland’s hydrological values are the recharge of aquifers and the moderation of extreme temperatures registered in the area. The threats that negatively affect this site are related to human activities, such as livestock, agriculture, and waste water disposal. [06/08/08]

Rare gorillas in Congo Ramsar site. According to various news reports today, an estimated 125,000 Western lowland gorillas have been surveyed in the Ramsar site in Congo designated as Réserve Communautaire du Lac Télé/Likouala-aux-Herbes (1998). Researchers who carried out the survey for the Wildlife Conservation Society said that the last census on the species, from the 1980s, estimated that there were only 100,000 of the gorillas left in the world. Since then, the researchers estimated, the numbers had been cut in half, and this new estimate represents double that previous estimate. Among many sources on this news are this from CNN and this from Environmental News Service. [06/08/08]

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