25th Meeting of the Ramsar Standing Committee


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25th Meeting of the Ramsar Standing Committee
Gland, Switzerland, 23 - 27 October 2000
Agenda item 10

DOC. SC25-6

Synergy and partnerships with other conventions and organizations


NOTE: Action requested. The Standing Committee may consider the action suggested in the last paragraph of this addenda document, in relation to the Ramsar Sites Database.

Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)

Paragraphs 5 and 6

Path-Finder Workshops on the Ecosystem Approach. In furtherance of Resolution V/6 on the "Ecosystem approach" of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management (CEM), the UNESCO MAB Programme and the Ramsar Convention promoted the holding of three subregional workshops on this issue. The first one was held in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, 17-20 July 2000, the second was held in Colombia, 17-20 September 2000, and the third one will be held in Malaysia on 30 October – 1 November.

The South American workshop was also supported by the European Union, the United Kingdom, WWF International, the Royal Holloway Institute, and the Colombian Ministry of Environment.

The workshop was based on the presentation and discussion of eleven case studies: two from Ecuador (La Segua, Ramsar site) and Galapagos; one from Bolivia (El Beni, in process to be designated as a Ramsar site); one from Peru (Tumbes, Ramsar site); one from Uruguay (Bañados del Este, Ramsar site); two from Colombia (Choco Eco-Region and high Andes); one from Brazil (Mata Atlantica Eco-region), one by WWF about the Eco-region approach in the Amazon southwest; one from Chile (Valdivian Forest) and one from Argentina (Pampa).


The Ramsar Bureau participated actively in the Intergovernmental Conference on "Biodiversity in Europe" held in Riga, Latvia, as a regional preparatory meeting for CBD COP5 in Nairobi, and in the 4th Meeting of the Council of the Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy, coordinated by the Council of Europe and UNEP-ROE.

Paragraph 35 – Ramsar Data Gateway (see also Annex III to DOC.SC25.2, Report of the Secretary General)

1. The basic premise of the Ramsar Data Gateway initiative, currently being developed under the MOU between the Ramsar Bureau, Wetlands International, and the Center for International Earth Sciences Information Network (CIESIN) at Columbia University, New York, USA, is to use as its basis the Ramsar Sites Database developed and maintained for the Convention by Wetlands International, and to facilitate access to, and analysis of, the information it holds, through its conversion to a Web-searchable system linked to a range of relevant spatial datasets, such as Ramsar Site boundaries, and demographic, infrastructure, land-use and legislative data.

2. On 12-13 October 2000, CIESIN hosted a meeting to review progress in the development of the Ramsar Data Gateway, and to identify the next steps and timeframes for its implementation. The Bureau is grateful to CIESIN for hosting the meeting and for supporting the costs of Scott Frazier (Wetlands International Ramsar Database Manager) to attend the meeting and to work with CIESIN on Gateway developments in the preceding days.

3. Participants in the meeting were the Ramsar Bureau, CIESIN, Wetlands International, BCIS (Biodiversity Conservation Information System – a network of global environmental NGOs undertaking biodiversity data and information management), BirdLife International, and UNEP-WCMC.

4. The meeting made substantive progress in resolving a number of key issues concerning the content and functionality of the Gateway. These included:

a) The content and presentation of the baseline Ramsar Sites data available through the Gateway;

b) The content and glossary information of terms and codes used in the Ramsar Sites Database:

c) The presentation and report options for querying the Gateway for information for different types of Ramsar Sites;

d) The procedures for updating the data in the Gateway from the Ramsar Sites Database, particularly in the light of the current redevelopment of the latter database:

f) The standards for metadata (information about the data) including the incorporation of the national inventory analyses prepared during the GroWI (Global Review of Wetland Resources and Priorities for Wetland Inventory) for COP7;

g) The identification of priorities for additional spatial (GIS and remote sensing) datasets for incorporation into the Gateway; and

h) Issues that will need to be covered in clear data access and sharing agreements between parties contributing datasets to the Gateway, linked with CIESIN’s overall data policy of datasets being freely available for non-commercial use.

5. The exercise of developing the Gateway is also yielding benefits in providing a review of the structure and content of the existing Ramsar Sites Database and helping identify issues for its future functionality, and also raising considerations about the future structure, content and information of the Ramsar Information Sheet and site map supplied by Parties on designation of a Ramsar Site.

6. The meeting also identified the potential for incorporating in the Gateway additional information on Ramsar sites to that held in the Ramsar Sites Database, such as more detailed GIS information on individual Ramsar sites, and photographic images of sites, where such material is available. This has raised the issue of how best to incorporate Ramsar site-related information from other ‘unofficial’ sources additional to the ‘official’ information as supplied by Contracting Parties and held in the Ramsar Sites Database.

7. It is anticipated that a test version of the Gateway will be released for review and comment in the first half of 2001, and that over a period of the following two years the Ramsar Data Gateway would become fully linked to CIESIN’s more sophisticated "SEDAC (Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center) Spatial Data Viewer" being developed under NASA contract, this contract also supporting the Ramsar Data Gateway development.

8. One important unresolved matter is the inclusion in the Ramsar Data Gateway of digitized boundaries of Ramsar sites. Such a boundary dataset is a key element of the planned overall functioning and utility of the Gateway. Until recently the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (now a UNEP agency - UNEP-WCMC) was supplied with Ramsar Site maps by the Bureau and Wetlands International under an informal agreement for digitizing and incorporation into their Protected Areas Database. Boundaries of some 700 sites are held by UNEP-WCMC in digital form. The issue of release of this dataset by UNEP-WCMC for incorporation into the Ramsar Data Gateway is not yet resolved, and is being pursued by the Bureau as a matter of urgency.

9. With the release of this site boundary dataset, a mechanism also needs to be established to digitize the boundaries of remaining c. 300 sites, and to incorporate boundaries for newly designated Ramsar sites. This may require seeking additional resourcing. Should it not prove possible to agree the release of this existing dataset, an alternative route to digitizing all 1037 site boundaries will need rapidly to be established, and again additional resources sought for this activity.

10. Although the issues of handling ‘official’ versus ‘unofficial’ information about Ramsar sites, and the structure and content of the Ramsar Information Sheet in relation to the Ramsar Sites Database developments, have not been raised in the papers circulated in advance to the Standing Committee, the Committee may wish to request the Bureau to prepare a report and proposals for consideration by the 26th meeting of the Standing Committee, for possible transmission to COP8, on the following issues:

a) The nature and extent of the data holdings included in the Ramsar Sites Database. At present the Database holds data and information derived from only that officially supplied by the Administrative Authority when designating or updating designation of a Site. Other relevant and scientifically correct information is often available for a site. Facility for handling this additional information would enhance the value and function of the Ramsar Sites Database.

b) The possibility of developing a revised format for the RIS that would bring it into closer conformity with the structure and requirements of the Ramsar Sites Database.

c) Specifications for the future preparation and supply of Ramsar Site maps in paper and digital (GIS) forms so as to ensure their full and accurate incorporation into the site records.

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