Over 1,000 Ramsar Sites in Europe


Out of the 18 countries signing in Ramsar, on 3 February 1971, the final act that adopted the text for the new Convention on Wetlands, 13 were European: Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics, and the United Kingdom. Since then, the European countries are very active in designating Wetlands of International Importance for the Ramsar List. As of today, 47 European countries have ratified the Convention (only San Marino and the Holy See are missing).

Rif St. Marie.

Today, they only represent 29% of all 164 Contracting Parties worldwide. With the recent additions to the Ramsar List of one Croatian, seven Romanian and four Dutch Ramsar Sites, the European number of Ramsar Sites has surpassed the magical number of 1,000 “ jewels in the crown”, standing currently at 1,011 Ramsar Sites. This number includes 66 Ramsar Sites in overseas territories of European countries in the Caribbean, Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans, and another 24 Ramsar Sites on European islands such as the Faeroes, Corsica, Svalbard, Canary, Balearic and Channel islands and the British territory on Cyprus.

North East Curaçao.

These 1,011 European Ramsar Sites still represent 48% of the global number of all Ramsar Sites (currently standing at 2,098). The European countries thus maintain their numerically outstanding position in the “global competition” of designating new Ramsar Sites. However, Europe is a small continent compared to Africa, Asia and the Americas, and one with a high human population density that has lost more than half of its wetland territory since last century. This explains probably to a large extent why European Ramsar Sites are rather small and cover together only slightly less than 27 million hectares, or a mere 13% of the global surface of 205 million hectares of all Ramsar Sites.

Vransko Jezero, new Ramsar Site in Croatia.

Still, all European Ramsar Sites taken together cover a surface larger than the size of the United Kingdom. And Albania, Austria, Belarus, Iceland, Montenegro and Sweden are currently in the process of listing another 24 Ramsar Sites. This augurs rather well for our ability to reach our target for 2015, as outlined in Ramsar’s Strategic Plan, of a global network of 2,500 Ramsar Sites covering together 250 million hectares. Yes, we can do it!

Report by Tobias Salathé, Senior Regional Advisor for Europe

Photo credits: Eugen Draganovic, Mark Vermeij, Eric Newton, Tobias Salathé and Valerie Chamberland.

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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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