Interesting new Ramsar sites in and around Europe

Interesting new Ramsar sites in and around Europe

11 June 1999

The United Kingdom announced at COP7 in San José, effective 11 May 1999, the designation of 8 new sites: seven teensy new sites in Bermuda in the Overseas Territories and another in the British Virgin Islands dependency. The Bermuda sites are Spittal Pond, Somerset Long Bay Pond, Warwick Pond, Hungry Bay Mangrove Swamp, Pembroke Marsh East, Lover’s Lake Nature Reserve, and Paget Marsh, averaging 5.17 hectares in surface area. The Virgin Islands site is Western Salt Ponds of Anegada, a bit larger (1071ha).

Tim Jones, our hastily exiting Regional Coordinator for Europe, writes: "The UKOT sites are notable because they cover potentially vulnerable small island ecosystems, including tidal flats, saline lagoons, mangroves, freshwater ponds and marshes, and peat swamp forest. The site in the British Virgin Islands covers 1,071 ha, whilst the seven very small (and therefore especially valuable and especially vulnerable) sites in Bermuda total about 35 ha. All four 'clusters' of Ramsar criteria have been used to identify the sites in both territories."

That’s not all! The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia has communicated the Ministry of the Environment’s Ramsar designation of Skocjanske jame. Tim Jones, paraphrasing Prof. Marko Simic, who prepared the background accompanying the required Ramsar Information Sheet, writes: "The Slovenian site 'Skocjanske jame' (= 'Skocjan caves' in English) is an extensive subterranean karst wetland system covering more than 300 ha. The complex was designated as a Natural World Heritage Site in 1986, and its designation as a Ramsar site represents the first application of the Ramsar guidelines for 'karst and other subterranean hydrological systems' adopted last week as Resolution VII.13. Skocjan caves support many endemic and endangered animals (mainly invertebrates) and contains outstanding examples of typical karst features." [The type ‘karst’ comes from this Kras region in Slovenia.]

According to the RIS, tourists have been visiting the cave since 1819, and a "vertiginous tourist path" was installed early in this century. One obstacle to mass tourism in the cave, the 150-meter elevation difference, was solved in 1986 by the construction of a "tourist escalator"! In 1996, roughly 41,343 tourists escalated, amongst whom 20,865 were not Slovenians but grasped the opportunity anyway.

Antiquarians will be pleased to note that the site was discovered in 1815 by innkeeper Joseph Eggenhöffner, who swam through several sections of the cave and thus blazed the trail, if that’s the right phrase. "There followed a courageous attempt by Jakob Svetina (1807-1872), who in 1840 dared to enter the initial sections of Skocjanske jame in a boat and reached the second waterfall. In 1851, the world-famous Viennese geographer Dr Adolf Schmidl succeeded in reaching the fourth waterfall." This is the only Ramsar site that Dr Adolf Schmidl has been known to have visited.