The Ramsar Convention – a modern success story for nature conservation


Ramsar's Senior Advisor for Europe, Tobias Salathé, reports that, as a contribution to the International Year of Biodiversity, Estonia organised an international conference in Tallinn to celebrate 100 years of contemporary nature conservation on 27-29 May 2010. Modern nature conservation in Estonia started with a focus on birds, through the establishment of Vaika Bird Sanctuary in August 1910, now part of the Vilsandi National Park, the first protected area in the country. In a similar way, the Ramsar Convention was initially concerned at the increasing loss and degradation of wetland habitat for migratory waterbirds. In Estonia, the roots of nature conservation go back much further actually, as the organisers of the conference, professor Kalev Sepp and Hanno Zingel, from the Ramsar Administrative Authority, pointed out in their introductory note: already in 1297, the Danish King Erik Menved issued a strict order to prohibit the cutting of coastal woods on four islands near Tallinn.

To reflect on the past and future of nature conservation, Environment Minister Jaanus Tammkivi invited the Ramsar Secretariat, among other international conservation experts, to present its success story for nature conservation (see for conference details). And despite the fact that Ramsar will soon celebrate “only” 40 years of activities, its focus on water-related ecosystems, subsumed under the specially created term “wetlands”, is now already widely recognized as addressing key issues for biodiversity conservation, preservation of cultural heritage and to mitigate climate change impacts. With close to 2000 globally designated Wetlands of International Importance, the Ramsar List is the world’s largest network of protected areas. The guidance and tools elaborated by the Ramsar Convention and its Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP) provide a unique link to bridge the remaining gaps between water resources management and a sustainable ecosystems approach for human wellbeing. Such were the key messages delivered to the 200 participants from the Nordic-Baltic region and beyond.

Nigula Nature Reserve, Ramsar site N°910, one of the twelve existing Estonian Ramsar sites, to which four new ones will be added soon, represent a total coverage of 263,000 ha.

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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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