Press release: Wetlands and Ramsar Sites

Press release: Wetlands and Ramsar Sites

8 November 1996

Wetlands occupy a transitional zone between areas which are permanently under water and those which are generally dry. They are remarkable for their diversity.

    Definition: in the words of the treaty, "wetlands are areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six metres".

This definition therefore covers wetland types as varied as the peat bogs of the Jura, the tundra of Northern Europe, alluvial plains and deltas, coral reefs and mangrove swamps.

Wetlands are important for their fundamental ecological functions…. Wetlands perform vital ecological functions: regulating water regimes (water storage and maintenance of water table levels), protecting shorelines from storm damage, absorbing pollutants and sediments and maintaining the stability of local climatic conditions (precipitation and temperature regulation).
their biological diversity…. They are home to a very wide range of flora and fauna: birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrates, as well as countless species of plants, including rice which provides basic nourishment for half of the world’s people.
and their economic, cultural and recreational value. The value of wetlands is immense when measured in terms of the economic, cultural and recreational services they provide: a clean and abundant water supply, support for fisheries, agriculture, grazing land and tourism, to mention just a few.
It is essential to conserve and restore them. Wetlands are essential to the health, well-being, and safety of people. One example: by functioning as sponges which absorb floodwater, they lessen or prevent flooding further downstream.
Ramsar Sites Member countries designate at least one site which meets the Ramsar Convention criteria for inclusion in the List of Wetlands of International Importance. They commit themselves to maintaining the ecological character of these sites. Over the years, the countries add to the List as many wetland sites as possible which satisfy the Ramsar criteria.

Well-known Ramsar sites include Kakadu National Park (Australia), The Pantanal (Brazil and Bolivia), Lake Poyang (China), The Camargue (France), Lake Nakuru (Kenya), the Danube Delta (Romania), and The Everglades (USA).

Switzerland Switzerland is often said to be the "water tower of Europe". Heavy precipitation in the Alps feeds the rivers which run in four directions: The Rhine to the North, the Ticino to the South, the Rhône to the West and the Inn (a tributary of the Danube) to the East. Switzerland is rich in water courses and other wetlands.
…in the heart of Europe This shared wealth and the geographical situation of the country in the heart of Europe demonstrates the need to cooperate with surrounding countries in all matters of conservation of these water resources (see the Rasmar Strategic Plan, Operational Objective 7.1, p.20).
…and in the world. Since 1988, in addition to its contribution to the central budget of the Convention, Switzerland has made a voluntary grant each year designed to support efforts to protect wetlands in those African countries which are situated on the great north/south migratory routes (Switzerland’s wetlands provide food and shelter for these birds during their migrations). Specifically, in 1995 Swiss financial support permitted Niger and Senegal to make inventories of their wetlands, and Togo received funding to define the boundaries of its first Ramsar site, thus assisting this country to become a Contracting Party.

Switzerland has also concluded a cooperation agreement with Bulgaria. This agreement applies to a programme concerning the biological diversity of this country, which provides, among other things, for the preparation of management plans for protected wetlands.

Swiss sites To date, Switzerland has designated eight sites for the Ramsar List:
  • Fanel Bay and Le Chablais
  • Bolle di Magadino
  • Kaltbrunner Riet
  • Klingnau artificial lake
  • Niederried artificial lake
  • Les Grangettes
  • Rade de Genève and Rhône downstream from Geneva
  • Southern shore of Lake Neuchâtel

For more information on these sites, see the List of Wetlands of International Importance and the brochure Ramsar Sites in Switzerland.