Two new Ramsar Sites in the USA
The United States has designated two interesting new sites for the List of Wetlands of International Importance, both effective as of World Wetlands Day, 2 February 2012. As summarized by Ms Nury Furlan, Ramsar's Assistant Advisor for the Americas, Congaree National Park (10,539 hectares, 33°47'22"N 80°45'34"W) in the southern state of South Carolina is a mosaic of freshwater swamp forests, seasonal sloughs, forested peatlands, permanent and seasonal creeks, permanent freshwater lakes, and shrub-dominated wetlands, containing the largest remaining example of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest in North America. The park supports a variety of species with different conservation status under the National Endangered Species Act, such as the Rafinesque Big-eared Bat (Corynorhinus rafinesquii), Southeastern Myotis (Myotis austroriparius), Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), Wood Stork (Mycteria americana), Swallow-tailed Kite (Elanoides forficatus), Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus), and Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata).
The site is an important over-wintering area for large numbers of temperate migrants and year-round residents. One winter census documented over 2,000 birds per 101ha, one of the highest wintering bird densities reported in the United States. It supports 56 species of fish, or almost 40% of the freshwater fish species known to exist in South Carolina. Since 2001, a new visitors' center has been opened. Visitor activities include hiking, fishing, birdwatching, canoeing and camping. Threats include the presence of invasive species like feral pigs (Sus scrofa), privet (Ligustrum spp.), Japanese stilt grass (Microstegium vimineum), kudzu (Pueraria Montana), wisteria (Wisteria sinensis), and Japanese climbing fern (Lygodium japonicum). Ramsar Site no. 2030. Most recent RIS information: 2012.
The second new site, The Emiquon Complex (5,729 hectares, 40°21'22"N 090°03'10"W), comprises three existing protected areas, the Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge, the Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge, and Emiquon Preserve that are owned and managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and The Nature Conservancy respectively. The complex lies within the former natural floodplain of the Illinois River, and as in other large-floodplain river systems, the dynamic relationship between the river and its floodplain creates a diversity of habitats including bottomland lakes, side channels, sloughs, marsh, bottomland hardwood forests, and wet, mesic and dry prairies. These in turn support correspondingly abundant and diverse animal populations, both terrestrial and aquatic. The site and its natural diversity of both resident and migratory animal species contribute to a corridor that provides essential habitats for long-distance longitudinal migrants such as Neotropical song birds, North American waterfowl, and some fishes such as paddlefish (Polyodon spathula) and American eel (Anguilla rostrata), and it also provides habitat and corridors for lateral migrants, especially amphibians and reptiles.
In addition to providing habitat for animals, the complex contributes to important ecological processes including processing and cycling of nutrients, sediments, and energy; improving water quality; sequestering carbon; and normalizing hydrology. It also provides opportunities for people for education, recreation, and compatible economic development. Threats include invasive species, high sedimentation rates, pollution, and altered hydrology in the areas of the complex that are not protected by levees. Ramsar Site no. 2031. Most recent RIS information: 2012.