A report on World Wetlands Day in Spain

Ramsar’s Senior Regional Advisor for Europe, Tobias Salathé attended some of the many local events that took place in Spain to celebrate World Wetlands Day (WWD).

In Madrid, Ms Teresa Ribera Rodríguez, State Secretary for Climate Change, invited the public and the media to a special World Wetlands Day celebration at the Ministry of Environment, Rural and Marine Affairs. She recalled Ramsar’s 40th Anniversary, Spain’s active involvement in the Convention since 1982 and the value of wetlands for water and forests. The Ministry agreed on 7 January to designate another five wetlands in Asturias, Aragón and Murcia for inclusion in the Ramsar List, which would make a total for Spain of 73 Ramsar Sites, placing it among the top three (with the UK and Mexico) at global level.

On this occasion, Mr José Juan Diaz Trillo, the Environment Councillor of the Andalusia regional government, presented his region’s policy for wetland conservation and wise use. At the same time in Seville, the capital of Andalucia, the long-awaited land use plan for the Dõnana Ramsar Site was published for public consultation after a joint mission of Ramsar, World Heritage and IUCN a few weeks ago. Its expert members are currently preparing their conclusions and recommendations.

Mr José Juan Diaz Trillo formally received the Ramsar Site diplomas for five Wetlands of International Importance that were recently designated in his region (see our article here). Mr Tobias Salathé, Senior Advisor for Europe took this opportunity to summarize the important contributions made by Spain to the Convention, and to highlight the challenges the country is facing due to growing pressures from urbanisation, tourism, desertification and biodiversity loss.

The Ministerial event closed with a preview of the new film on “Spanish Wetlands”, following migratory birds along the chain of Ramsar Sites on the Mediterranean coast. The 23 minutes film, a pleasant tribute to the biodiversity of Spanish Ramsar Sites, (watch the video here) was then formally released the day after at the new Spanish Wetland Centre CEHUM in Gandía, in the Valencia Community.

Also on World Wetlands Day, the Ecological Park Plaiaundi celebrated the 10th anniversary of its environmental education and information centre at the Txingudi Ramsar Site in the Basque Country. Important parts of this unique coastal wetland were recently restored. The inter-tidal estuary in the Gulf of Biskay of the Bidasoa river and its tributaries provide crucial wetland services in a coastal ecosystem that is increasingly under pressure from spreading urbanisation, tourism and transport infrastructures. The area is crossed since historical times by pilgrims, walking their way to Santiago de Compostela. A small island in the Bidasoa border river served as a negotiating place for the opposing forces during World War II.

View of one of Plaiaundi’s restored tidal ponds

Nowadays, as Ms Pilar Unzalu, the Environmental Councillor of the Basque government underlined, the transboundary cooperation is a model of its kind. This was confirmed by her French neighbour Georges Lafeu, president of the environmental education centre CPIE Littoral Basque. Some 50 participants from the Spanish and French sides enjoyed local gastronomic specialities, products of the wider coastal wetland area, and expressed their hopes for the further development of this “green lung” in the urban coastal environment. Ramsar Site designation of the Tingudi bay finally brought international recognition to this environmental core area providing key ecosystem services in a densely populated area.

The Jaitzubia river estuary at low tide with Hondarribia town and San Sebastian airport in the background

A report by Tobias Salathé

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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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