The Ramsar Bulletin Board, 25 September 2006

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Nordic and Baltic countries swing the NorBalWet Initiative into action. During a preparatory meeting in March 2005, the Ramsar administrative authorities of Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden and the regions around the Baltic Sea of the Russian Federation agreed to embark on a regional initiative, the Nordic-Baltic Wetlands Initiative (NorBalWet), under the Ramsar Convention, confirmed later that year in Resolution IX.7. This intention was fast turned into action in 2006 with the help of two major events - a seminar on mire restoration in Sweden in May 2006 and a conference on wetland restoration in Norway in September 2006. Ramsar's Senior Advisor for Europe, Tobias Salathé, participated in those meetings and reports on both, with photos, here. [20/09/06]

Uganda names nine new Wetlands of International Importance. The Ramsar Secretariat is pleased to announce that Uganda has added nine new sites to the List of Wetlands of International Importance. Spread around the country, the sites contribute a variety of wetland types to the total area of Ramsar sites, going from Uganda's largest tract of swamp forest to extensive papyrus tracts and an impressive waterfall system. Thanks to the new designations, the country can now afford extra protection to the habitats of endangered species such as the globally vulnerable Shoebill, the Papyrus Gonolek, and the Sitatunga, which constitute important tourist attractions. The cultural and socio-economic value of these wetlands should also be emphasized, as local communities depend on them for their survival in terms of fish, construction material, medicines, flood protection, water filtration, grazing and much more. Brief descriptions of the new sites, with photographs, can be seen here.

The Secretariat would like to congratulate Uganda, and particularly the Wetlands Inspection Division, for this new achievement and for its continual efforts in the implementation of the Convention at both national and international levels. We also recognize the contributions of WWF's Global Freshwater Programme, BirdLife International, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the Royal Danish Embassy in Kampala, and NatureUganda to the designation of these new sites. Uganda, which joined the Convention in 1988, now has 11 Ramsar sites covering a surface area of 354,803 hectares. Globally, the Convention's 153 Contracting Parties have designated 1626 Ramsar sites, covering 145,594,013 hectares. -- Lucia Scodanibbio, Assistant Advisor for Africa. [15/09/06]

New Ramsar site on the Isle of Man. The Secretariat is pleased to announce that the United Kingdom's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (defra) has designated a new Wetland of International Importance located on the Isle of Man, a UK crown dependency in the Irish Sea. Ballaugh Curragh (193 hectares, 54°19'N 004°31'W) is a complex mosaic of interrelated peatland habitats dominated by grey willow and birch scrub locally known as 'curragh'. Of particular significance is the presence of wet bog woodland, natural dystrophic ponds, Molinia meadows on peaty soils, and especially the purple moor-grass-dominated fen pastures with good populations of marsh orchids. Amongst the high diversity of breeding birds the site also supports the threatened Corncrake Crex crex, which is ascribed to the continuing presence of traditionally managed farmland. The biodiversity of the site is known to have contributed to its cultural importance as an early settlement, and hence to its considerable value as an archaeological resource. Thus Ballaugh Curragh forms a culturally-defined area of the Isle of Man as well as a distinct wetland, and as such it has provided valuable archaeological and palynological (spores and pollen) records. The presence of impressive numbers of winter hen harrier Circus cyaneus and traditionally-managed meadows with summer displays of thousands of orchids attracts visitors for both bird-watching and the popular 'orchid tours' run by the Manx Wildlife Trust.

In ceremonies on 6 September 2006, the Manx Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Phil Gawne, and Ramsar Secretary General Peter Bridgewater celebrated the new designation with local officials, and the Secretary General's illustrated report on that, with the government's press release, can be seen here. [14/09/06]

Symposium on transboundary wetlands in Europe, Eger, 2006. On the occasion of the first European Congress of Conservation Biology, held in the historic Hungarian city of Eger 23-26 August 2006, one of the major events was the Symposium on 'Diversity of important transboundary wetlands in Europe' convened by Saulius Svazas (Lithuania), who co-chaired the meeting with Thymio Papayannis, with financial support provided by OMPO. Thymio provides a brief report on the conclusions here. [01/09/06]

Sao Tome and Principe joins the Ramsar Convention. The Ramsar Secretariat is very pleased to announce that Sao Tome and Principe has become the 153rd Contracting Party to the Convention on Wetlands - the instrument of accession was received by the Director-General of UNESCO, the depositary for the Ramsar Convention, on 21 August 2006, and so the treaty will enter into force for the new Party on 21 December 2006. The nation of Sao Tome and Principe, Africa's smallest country, comprises two small, volcanic islands in the Gulf of Guinea straddling the equator about 250km northwest of the coast of Gabon, with an overall human population of something like 170,000.

The new Party's obligatory first Wetland of International Importance has been named as Ilots Tinhosas (23 hectares, 01°22'N 007°18'E), two small rocky islands, Tinhosa Grande (20 ha) and Tinhosa Pequena (3 ha), unvegetated and uninhabited by humans, lying between Sao Tome and Principe about 22km south-southwest of the latter. The site supports an important community of seabirds and serves as a breeding site for more than 300,000 migratory waterbirds, including Brown Gannet (Sula fusca), Sooty Tern (Sterna fuliginosa), Brown and Black Noddy, and in lesser numbers, Yellow-billed tropicbird (Phaethon lepturus).

Considerable assistance to the accession procedure was provided through small grants from the Ramsar Secretariat and from a Wetlands International project funded by the government of The Netherlands, including a field mission in September 2005 to survey potential Ramsar sites. Some photographs by Tim Dodman from that mission to some of Sao Tome's wetlands can be seen here. [31/08/06]

Ramsar stamps for the Bailiwick of Guernsey. Guernsey celebrates Lihou Island Ramsar designation. The Guernsey Philatelic Bureau has announced the issue of a series of postage stamps celebrating the designation on 1 March 2006 of Lihou Island and L'Erée Headland as a Wetland of International Importance. As the Bailiwick of Guernsey in the Channel Islands is a crown dependency of the United Kingdom, the Ramsar site designation was made through the UK. Here are some photos and excerpts from the accompanying materials. [25/08/06]
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