Transboundary Ramsar Site managers meet in Strasbourg

17/02/2010

On 28 August 2008, the floodplain along the Upper Rhine, shared between France and Germany, became the ninth wetland area designated as a transboundary Ramsar site (cf. list of TRS). The distinction means that this ecologically coherent wetland site extends across the national border and that the Ramsar site authorities on both sides of the border have formally agreed to collaborate in its management, and have notified the Secretariat of this intent. Presently, the French-German partners are working at further harmonizing the governance and management of their respective parts of the Ramsar site.

To this end, they hope to profit from the experience and know-how accumulated by the managers of other transboundary Ramsar sites. Thus, the Alsace Regional Council, together with the regional office of the French Ministry of Ecology, decided to invite these Ramsar experts to a workshop to exchange know-how and experience. This led forty managers of transboundary Ramsar sites in Austria, Belgium, France, Hungary, Germany, Latvia, Luxemburg, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Ukraine to meet on 29 January 2010 in Strasburg, just prior to the World Wetlands Day celebrations in their home countries. They listened to the transboundary management experiences in the trilateral Ramsar site of the floodplains of the Morava-Dyje-Danube confluence and along the Upper Sûre and the Upper Rhine rivers, and learnt from the experiences with floodplain management of the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR). During the afternoon, they discussed, with Ramsar Secretariat facilitation, the tools needed for transboundary surveys and monitoring, possible ways of joint management planning and of transboundary governance. They argued how to set up a knowledge network of transboundary Ramsar site managers and reflected on possible pilot projects for know-how transfer and efficiency improvement. The report by Edith Wenger (and PDF), one of the organisers of the meeting, provides a lively summary of the encouraging debates.

On the next morning, the participants visited the nearest part of the Upper Rhine floodplain, to learn more about practical cooperation and to compare the approaches on the left and right sides of the Rhine. The Strasburg Municipal Authorities presented their restoration works to re-connect and temporarily flood ancient side arms of the Rhine by using excess waters from the modern shipping canal, undertaken with financial support from the European Union LIFE programme. On the opposite side in Germany, Ulrike Pfarr, leading an extensive programme of the Federal State Baden-Württemberg, explained how they use the remaining riverine forests as flood retention areas and demonstrated how a carefully monitored flooding regime actually contributes to an increase in biodiversity. The on-site visit presented many occasions for lively discussions, despite the glacial outdoor temperatures. And to conclude the meeting, the participants profited from the calorific qualities of the Alsacian gastronomy. Indeed, a comfortable ending for a meeting that promises to be the first in a successful series to come.

 

Christian Dronneau, of the Alsace Regional Council, explains the restoration works of the programme “Living Rhine”.

Transboundary Ramsar site managers at a water inlet in the Altenheim riverine forest polder on the German side.

Standing since ages in the midst of the floodplain forest, the old boundary stone shows the letters E-L for Elsass-Lothringen (Alsace-Lorraine), while the Ramsar experts already moved on to the side of the former Grand Duchy of Baden.

After the cold outdoor morning a nourishing “choucroute” dish was  very welcome to continue the lively discussions on future cooperation. (from left) Ramsar experts Jan Kadlecik (Slovakia), Edith Wenger (Alsace), Andras Schmidt (Hungary). Andris Urtans (Latvia) and the Ukrainian delegation.

-- Tobias Salathé, Ramsar

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