26th Meeting of the Ramsar Standing Committee -- Agenda papers

13/12/2001

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26th Meeting of the Ramsar Standing Committee
Gland, Switzerland, 3 - 7 December 2001
Agenda item 12.3 (d) (i)
[tabled at the SC26 meeting]

DOC. SC26-25

Developing convergence between Ramsar and CBD approaches to the criteria and classification of inland water ecosystems

Action requested: The Standing Committee is invited to note the attached draft paper from the CBD Secretariat and to advise on ways and means of addressing its recommendations.

1. The Bureau has received the attached request and draft working paper from the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, concerning development of convergence of Ramsar and CBD approaches to criteria for the identification and designation of wetlands of international importance and classification of inland water ecosystems in support of such designation.

2. The working paper was developed from a comparative analysis of Annex 1 to the CBD, the Ramsar Strategic Framework and Vision for the List of Wetlands of International Importance (Resolution VII.11) and the draft Ramsar Framework for Wetland Inventory (DOC. SC26/COP8-7).

3. This issue is an activity identified for joint action under the CBD/Ramsar Joint Work Plan 2000-2001.

4. The CBD Secretariat intends to submit this working paper as an information document at the 6th meeting of its Conference of Parties in April 2002; it intends for this topic to form part of the review and elaboration of the CBD programme of work on the biological diversity of inland waters, which will form a major theme of CBD’s Subsidiary Body on Sceintific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) at SBSTTA8 in late 2002 or early 2003.

5. The working paper includes recommendations for joint work between Ramsar and CBD, through the Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP) and SBSTTA, concerning the background to the existing Ramsar Criteria for Identifying Wetlands of International Importance, and further development of a systematic approach to identification of priority wetlands for the conservation of biological diversity based on the Ramsar Strategic Framework and Vision for the List of Wetlands of International Importance.

6. In relation to this, the working paper identifies that additional criteria or guidance may be needed on a number of biodiversity-related issues covered by the CBD’s approach when compared with that of the Ramsar Strategic Framework, notably on wild relatives of domesticated or cultivated species, species or communities/genomes or genes of social, scientific or cultural significance, and wetlands supporting species or communities important for research, including species indicators.

7. The Standing Committee may wish to note the implications of the CBD’s working paper for any further review and elaboration of the Ramsar Criteria and guidelines for the Strategic Framework and Vision for the List.


Ref: SCBD/STTM/PM 3 December 2001

Dear Mr Blasco,

At its fourth meeting in 1998, the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adopted decision IV/4 including the programme of work on biological diversity of inland water ecosystems. In paragraph 12 of the programme of work, the COP requested the Executive Secretary to work closely with the Ramsar Bureau and further direct the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA), and the Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP) of the Convention on Wetlands to achieve desirable convergence between approaches on criteria and classification of inland water ecosystems between the two Conventions.

Please find attached for your review and comments a draft note prepared in response to paragraph 12 of the programme of work on biological diversity of inland water ecosystems (decision IV/4). The working document was developed based on Annex I to the CBD, the Ramsar Strategic Framework for the List of Wetlands of International Importance and STRP paper on Wetlands Inventory which will be submitted to the 26th Meeting of the Ramsar Standing Committee.

I shall submit this note as an information document at the sixth Conference of the Parties to the CBD as one of the outputs of our joint activities. I would appreciate receiving your comments at your earliest convenience but no later than 31 December 2001.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank you for your continued collaboration in the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Yours sincerely

Hamdallah Zedan
Executive Secretary


The CBD and Ramsar approaches to criteria and classification of inland water ecosystems

(for national elaboration of annex I to the convention on biological diverstiy as pertinent to inland water ecosystems)

I. Background

1. The Conference of the Parties (COP) advises Parties to prepare indicative lists of inland water ecosystems, using the criteria set out in Annex I of the Convention (decision IV/4, paragraph 12 of the programme of work on biological diversity of inland water ecosystems). The COP further urges Parties when requesting support, for projects related to inland water ecosystems, from the Financial Mechanism that priority be given inter alia to: identifying inland water ecosystems in accordance with Article 7 and Annex I to the Convention, taking into account the criteria for Wetlands of International Importance as adopted under the Convention on Wetlands (decision IV/4, paragraph 7).

2. In order to provide scientific advice and further guidance to assist in the national elaboration of Annex I of the Convention (as pertaining to inland water ecosystems), the COP, in decision IV/4 paragraph 12 of the programme work, requested the Executive Secretary to work closely with the Ramsar Bureau and further direct the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) to work jointly with the Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP) of the Convention on Wetlands to achieve desirable convergence between approaches on criteria and classification of inland water ecosystems between the two Conventions.

3. This information document has been prepared by the Executive Secretary in response to the mandate given by the fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties in paragraph 12 of the programme of work on biological diversity of inland water ecosystems. In section II of this information document the indicative list of components of biological diversity, as in Annex I to this Convention, and Ramsar criteria for identification of Wetlands of International Importance are being compared to identify the applicability of the Ramsar criteria for national elaboration of Annex I to the CBD. In section III Ramsar classification system for wetland types is compared with the CBD’s approach to identify convergence between the two approaches. Section IV contains recommendations for the further elaboration of criteria for identification of Wetlands of International Importance in line with Annex I of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

II. Identification of components of biological diversity of Inland water ecosystmes important for its conservation and sustainable use

A. Annex I to the Convention on Biological Diversity

4. Article 7 on identification and monitoring, paragraph (a), states that each Contracting Party shall, as far as possible and as appropriate, in particular for the purpose of Article 8 to 10 (in-situ conservation, ex-situ conservation, sustainable use of components of biological diversity) identify components of biological diversity important for its conservation and sustainable use having regard to the indicative list of biodiversity components presented in Annex I.

5. The Conference of the Parties in its decision III/10 on Identification, monitoring and assessment recommends that parties consider a step by step approach to the implementation of Article 7, paying attention to identification of important components of biodiversity drawing upon the indicative list of categories of important components of biological diversity set out in Annex I of the Convention. The indicative list in Annex I is categorized in three conceptual levels of biodiversity, which are ecosystem, species and genetic diversity. Annex I is characterized in terms of distinctiveness, richness, representativeness, economic and cultural importance, and the extend to which they are threatened and reflects medicinal, agricultural, economic, social, scientific and cultural values and values associated with key evolutionary and biological processes as well.

6. Document UNEP/CBD/SBSTTS/3/7 on identification and monitoring of components of biological diversity of inland water ecosystems considers Article 7 of the Convention and elaborates the terms in Annex I of the Convention pertinent to inland water ecosystems.

B. The Ramsar Convention criteria for identification of Wetlands of International Importance

7. The Convention on Wetlands has developed criteria and guidelines for identification of Wetlands of International Importance. The vision for the List of Wetland of International Importance (Ramsar List) is to develop and maintain an international network of wetlands, which are important for the conservation of global biological diversity and for sustaining human life through the ecological and hydrological functions they perform.

8. One of the objectives for designation of Wetlands of International Importance is to use Ramsar sites as baseline and reference areas for national, supranational/regional, and international environmental monitoring to detect trends in the loss of biological diversity, climate change, and the processes of desertification.

9. There are 8 criteria for identification of Wetlands of International Importance and guidelines are provided for each criterion to assist the Parties in taking a systematic approach to identifying the priority sites for Wetlands of International Importance. Moreover Ramsar Convention provides general guidance that includes issues on transboundary situations, prioritizing, size, legal status, flagship and keystone species, non-native species, site clusters and boundary definition of sites. The strategic framework for the list of Wetlands of International Importance, which is available at: http://www.ramsar.org/key_guide_list_e.htm contains the vision, 8 criteria and guidelines and general guidance for identification of Wetlands of International Importance.

10. It is important to note that Wetlands of International Importance are those wetlands that meet the one or more of the 8 criteria and are designated as Ramsar Sites (Wetland of International Importance). There are wetlands that meet one or more criteria but are not officially designated as Wetlands of International Importance. The criteria and the guidelines explicitly show that they are applicable for identifying wetlands that are nationally important however since the ultimate goal is to develop a global network of important wetlands they are referred to as criteria for identification of Wetlands of International Importance.

11. A wetland should be considered internationally important if it:

    1. Contains a representative, rare or unique example of a natural or near-natural wetland type found within the appropriate biogeographic region (Criterion 1).
    2. Supports vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered species or threatened ecological communities (Criterion 2).
    3. Supports populations of plant and /or animal species important for maintaining the biological diversity of a particular biogeographic region (Criterion 3).
    4. Supports plant and/or animal species at a critical stage in their life cycles. Or provides refuge during adverse conditions (Criterion 4).
    5. Regularly supports 20,000 or more waterbirds (Criterion 5).
    6. Regularly supports 1% of the individuals in a population of one species or subspecies of waterbird (Criterion 6).
    7. Supports a significant proportion of indigenous fish subspecies, species or families, life-history stages, species interactions and/or populations that are representative of wetland benefits and/or values and thereby contributes to global biological diversity (Criterion 7).
    8. Is an important source of food for fishes, spawning ground, nursery and/or migration path on which fish stocks, either within the wetland or elsewhere, depend (Criterion 8).

C. Application of the criteria for identification of Wetlands of International Importance for national elaboration of Annex I to the CBD

12. Ramsar criteria (quantitative and qualitative) for identification of Wetlands of International Importance cover some of the components of the Annex I of the Convention on Biological Diversity. The following matrix shows the gap in Ramsar criteria relevant to the indicative list of biodiversity components important for its conservation and sustainable use.

Table 1- Applicability of the criteria for Ramsar sites to Annex I to the CBD

Annex I to the CBD- Indicative list of biodiversity components

Criteria for identification of Wetlands of International Importance

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

Ecosystems and habitats:                
  • containing high diversity

·

·

·

     

·

 
  • containing large number of endemic or threatened species, or wilderness
 

·

   

·

·

·

 
  • required by migratory species;
 

·

·

·

 

·

 

·

  • of social, economic, cultural or scientific importance;
               
  • which are representative, unique or associated with key evolutionary or other biological processes;

·

 

·

·

 

·

 

·

Species or Communities which are:                
  • threatened
 

·

·

         
  • wild relatives of domesticated or cultivated species of medicinal, agricultural or other economic value;
               
  • of social, scientific or cultural importance;
               
  • of importance for research into the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, such as indicator species;
               
Described genomes and genes of social, scientific or economic importance                

13. Ramsar’s criteria, at ecosystem and habitat level cover most of the indicative list of the biodiversity components of the CBD except for social, economic, cultural or scientific ecosystems and habitats. It should be noted that quantitative criteria are given only for waterbirds and fishes. The Criteria do not include elements for identification of biodiversity components at species or communities and genetic levels of indicative list given in Annex I to the CBD.

III. Classification of inland water ecosystems

A. CBD’s approach to classification of inland water ecosystems

14. The CBD’s thematic area on biological diversity of inland waters includes underground and surface water ecosystems. Surface water ecosystems (lotic and lentic ecosystems) include, riverine, lagoonal, lacustrine, palustrine, estuarine and man-made systems.

15. A classification of inland waters is required to implement inventory, and monitoring programmes in order to establish priorities for conservation and financial assistance and increase public awareness. Monitoring programmes can be developed based on the inventory plans, which need to be carried out at different scales.

16. The Convention on Biological Diversity does not suggest a single global classification for inland waters. Different classifications are being used around the world and no single one addresses all different purposes of wetland inventories (see Annex I).

B. Ramsar classification system for wetland types

17. Ramsar definition of wetlands includes marine and coastal ecosystems to a depth at low tide of up to six meters. This extends beyond the notion of inland water ecosystems as considered here, and includes a number of areas, which under the Convention on Biological Diversity are included within the remit of the Jakarta Mandate.

18. The Ramsar classification system for wetland types is composed of three main components, marine/coastal wetlands, inland wetlands and human made wetlands. Annex II to this document contains the Ramasr classification for wetland types. The Ramsar wetland types are intended to provide only a very broad framework to aid rapid identification of the main wetland habitats represented at each site.

C. Compatibility of CBD’s approach and Ramsar inland wetlands type

19. Ramsar classification for wetland types is not wholly comprehensive and when first developed was not anticipated to be used for inventory or monitoring purposes. However to be able to use Ramsar’s technical guidelines and documents and to facilitate further cooperation between the two conventions, it is necessary to identify the ecosystems in the Ramsar’s classification of wetlands which are dealt with in CBD’s thematic area on biological diversity of inland waters.

20. The Ramsar STRP has prepared a framework for wetlands inventory that does not recommend a global wetland classification and a specific inventory methodology (http://www.ramsar.org/key_sc26_docs_cop8_07.htm). Rather it provides information on different existing proven inventory methods, and opinions for different wetland classifications. Annex IV to the document contains description on eight different wetland classifications and is indicated that no single classification will suit all inventory purposes. It is recommended that a classification suited to the purpose of a particular inventory should be chosen or developed.

21. The following table shows that all Ramsar inland wetland types and some of the human-made wetlands are covered by the CBD’s thematic area on biological diversity of inland waters. Freshwater, tree-dominated wetlands and forested peatlands are common between the CBD’s two thematic areas on inland waters and forest biological diversity.

Table 2- Generally recognized inland water systems for the purpose of the CBD programme of work on biological diversity of inland water ecosystems and the Ramsar inland wetland types

Generally recognized inland water systems for the purpose of the CBD PoW on biological diversity of inland water ecosystems

Ramsar inland wetland types

Underground water systems
  • Freshwater springs; oases.
  • Geothermal wetlands
  • Karst and other subterranean hydrological systems, inland
Riverine systems
  • Permanent rivers/streams/creeks; includes waterfalls.
  • Seasonal/intermittent/irregular rivers/streams/creeks
Lagoonal systems
  • Permanent saline/brackish/alkaline lakes.
  • Seasonal/intermittent saline/brackish/alkaline lakes and flatsÛ .
  • Permanent saline/brackish/alkaline marshes/pools.
  • Seasonal/intermittent saline/brackish/alkaline marshes/pools*.
Lacustrine systems
  • Permanent freshwater lakes (over 8 ha); includes large oxbow lakes.
  • Seasonal/intermittent freshwater lakes (over 8 ha); includes floodplain lakes
Palustrine systems
  • Permanent freshwater marshes/pools; ponds (below 8 ha), marshes and swamps on inorganic soils; with emergent vegetation water-logged for at least most of the growing season.
  • Seasonal/intermittent freshwater marshes/pools*on inorganic soils; includes sloughs, potholes, seasonally flooded meadows, sedge marshes.
  • Non-forested peatlands; includes shrub or open bogs, swamps, fens.
  • Alpine wetlands; includes alpine meadows, temporary waters from snowmelt.
  • Freshwater, tree-dominated wetlands; includes freshwater swamp forests, seasonally flooded forests, wooded swamps on inorganic soils.
  • Tundra wetlands; includes tundra pools, temporary waters from snowmelt.
  • Shrub-dominated wetlands*; shrub swamp, shrub dominated freshwater marches, shrub carr, adler thicket on inorganic soils.
Estuarine ecosystems
  • Permanent inland deltas.
Man-made ecosystems
  • Aquaculture (e.g., fish/shrimp) ponds
  • Ponds; includes farm ponds, stock ponds, small tanks; (generally below 8 ha).
  • Excavations; gravel/brick/clay pits; borrow pits, mining pools.
  • Canals and drainage channels, ditches.
  • Karst and other subterranean hydrological systems, human-made

IV. Recommendations

22. In order to implement the CBD’s programme of work on biological diversity of inland water ecosystems and in line with elements of the Joint Work Plan between the two conventions, the Ramsar Bureau and STRP may wish to consider the following actions and in liaison with the CBD Secretariat explore ways and means for carrying out the suggested activities:

  1. Presentation of the scientific background of the existing criteria for identification of Wetlands of International Importance to SBSTTA8 for its consideration,
  2. Development of a vision and guidelines for adopting a systematic approach to identify priority wetlands for the conservation of biological diversity and sustainable use of the wetlands and the setting of global guidelines for applying the Ramsar criteria to identify important wetlands, even in countries that are not Parties to the Ramsar Convention. The global vision and guidelines, drawing upon the guidelines for the development of the Ramsar List, would be a step forward towards identification of important wetlands all over the world.
  3. In reviewing the strategic framework and guidelines for the future development of the list of Wetlands of International Importance, the Ramsar Bureau and STRP may wish to consider:
  1. the following additional criteria for the identification of Wetlands of International Importance, including quantitative criteria, and develop guidelines on the application of each criterion:
    1. Wetlands that are believed to support wild relatives of domesticated or cultivated species;
    2. Wetlands that support species or communities/genomes or genes of social, scientific or cultural importance; and
    3. Wetlands that support species or communities that are important for research into the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity such as species indicators.
  1. developing general guidelines on delineating and mapping wetland boundaries taking into account the ecological and hydrological functions of wetlands.

Annex I- Wetlands classification listing from ramsar inventory framework

Standardized inventory methods are available and have been successfully used in different circumstances, countries or regions. Notable amongst these are the Mediterranean Wetlands Initiative (MedWet) inventory, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service national wetland inventory, the Ugandan national wetland inventory, the Asian wetland inventory, [and the inventory method used in Ecuador – to be added]. The following table indicates which classification is used in the above mentioned wetland inventory methods. The table is extracted from information given in Ramsar’s framework for wetlands inventory (http://www.ramsar.org/key_sc26_docs_cop8_07.htm).

Mediterranean Wetlands Initiative (MedWet) inventory
Purpose and objective To identify where wetlands occur in Mediterranean countries and ascertain which are priority sites for conservation; to identify the values and functions for each wetland and provide a baseline for measuring future change; and to provide a tool for planning and management and permit comparisons between sites.
Habitat classification Ramsar classification can be used at a broad scale. For detailed information on sites the United States National Wetland Inventory classification has been adapted.
United States national wetland inventory
Purpose and objective To conduct a natural resource inventory of wetlands for use in wetland planning, regulation, management and conservation.
Habitat classification Hierarchical classification developed as an integral part of the inventory to describe ecological units and provide uniformity in concepts and terms.
Uganda National Wetlands Programme
Purpose and objective To survey, describe, quantify and map all wetlands and provide decision-makers and planners, especially at district level, with information for management planning; to support policy implementation; to support economic valuation; and to support overall natural resource management planning.
Habitat classification Derived from landform, water regime and vegetation.
Asian Wetland Inventory (AWI)
Purpose and objective To provide a hierarchical database on coastal and inland wetlands in Asia
Habitat classification Derived from minimum data on landform and water regimes and possibly supplemented with information on vegetation, areal size and water quality.

Annex II- The Ramsar classification system for wetland type

The codes are based upon the Ramsar Classification System for Wetland Type as approved by Recommendation 4.7 and amended by Resolution VI.5 of the Conference of the Contracting Parties. The categories listed herein are intended to provide only a very broad framework to aid rapid identification of the main wetland habitats represented at each site.

Marine/Coastal Wetlands

A -- Permanent shallow marine waters in most cases less than six metres deep at low tide; includes sea bays and straits.

B -- Marine subtidal aquatic beds; includes kelp beds, sea-grass beds, tropical marine meadows.

C -- Coral reefs.

D -- Rocky marine shores; includes rocky offshore islands, sea cliffs.

E -- Sand, shingle or pebble shores; includes sand bars, spits and sandy islets; includes dune systems and humid dune slacks.

F -- Estuarine waters; permanent water of estuaries and estuarine systems of deltas.

G -- Intertidal mud, sand or salt flats.

H -- Intertidal marshes; includes salt marshes, salt meadows, saltings, raised salt marshes; includes tidal brackish and freshwater marshes.

I -- Intertidal forested wetlands; includes mangrove swamps, nipah swamps and tidal freshwater swamp forests.

J -- Coastal brackish/saline lagoons; brackish to saline lagoons with at least one relatively narrow connection to the sea.

K -- Coastal freshwater lagoons; includes freshwater delta lagoons.

Zk(a) – Karst and other subterranean hydrological systems, marine/coastal

Inland Wetlands

L -- Permanent inland deltas.

M -- Permanent rivers/streams/creeks; includes waterfalls.

N -- Seasonal/intermittent/irregular rivers/streams/creeks.

O -- Permanent freshwater lakes (over 8 ha); includes large oxbow lakes.

P -- Seasonal/intermittent freshwater lakes (over 8 ha); includes floodplain lakes.

Q -- Permanent saline/brackish/alkaline lakes.

R -- Seasonal/intermittent saline/brackish/alkaline lakes and flats.

Sp -- Permanent saline/brackish/alkaline marshes/pools.

Ss -- Seasonal/intermittent saline/brackish/alkaline marshes/pools.

Tp -- Permanent freshwater marshes/pools; ponds (below 8 ha), marshes and swamps on inorganic soils; with emergent vegetation water-logged for at least most of the growing season.

Ts -- Seasonal/intermittent freshwater marshes/pools on inorganic soils; includes sloughs, potholes, seasonally flooded meadows, sedge marshes.

U -- Non-forested peatlands; includes shrub or open bogs, swamps, fens.

Va -- Alpine wetlands; includes alpine meadows, temporary waters from snowmelt.

Vt -- Tundra wetlands; includes tundra pools, temporary waters from snowmelt.

W -- Shrub-dominated wetlands; shrub swamps, shrub-dominated freshwater marshes, shrub carr, alder thicket on inorganic soils.

Xf -- Freshwater, tree-dominated wetlands; includes freshwater swamp forests, seasonally flooded forests, wooded swamps on inorganic soils.

Xp -- Forested peatlands; peatswamp forests.

Y -- Freshwater springs; oases.

Zg -- Geothermal wetlands

Zk(b) – Karst and other subterranean hydrological systems, inland

Note : "floodplain" is a broad term used to refer to one or more wetland types, which may include examples from the R, Ss, Ts, W, Xf, Xp, or other wetland types. Some examples of floodplain wetlands are seasonally inundated grassland (including natural wet meadows), shrublands, woodlands and forests. Floodplain wetlands are not listed as a specific wetland type herein.

Human-made wetlands

1 -- Aquaculture (e.g., fish/shrimp) ponds

2 -- Ponds; includes farm ponds, stock ponds, small tanks; (generally below 8 ha).

3 -- Irrigated land; includes irrigation channels and rice fields.

4 -- Seasonally flooded agricultural land (including intensively managed or grazed wet meadow or pasture).

5 -- Salt exploitation sites; salt pans, salines, etc.

6 -- Water storage areas; reservoirs/barrages/dams/impoundments (generally over 8 ha).

7 -- Excavations; gravel/brick/clay pits; borrow pits, mining pools.

8 -- Wastewater treatment areas; sewage farms, settling ponds, oxidation basins, etc.

9 -- Canals and drainage channels, ditches.

Zk(c) – Karst and other subterranean hydrological systems, human-made

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