Ramsar, with Bolivia’s help, surpasses 200 million hectares of global coverage

Ramsar, with Bolivia’s help, surpasses 200 million hectares of global coverage

2 February 2013
Bolivia (Plurinational State of)

The government of Bolivia is celebrating World Wetlands Day 2013 today by designating three enormous new Wetlands of International Importance in the Department of Beni in the lowland northeast of the country, bringing the Convention's global total of area coverage by the Contracting Parties to 204,797,361 hectares (2,047,973 km2). The new listings, providing strong evidence of Bolivia's strong commitment to wetland conservation and the Ramsar Convention's wise use philosophy, also move that country from 8th place to first place in total land area amongst the Parties, now with 11 sites covering 14,842,405 hectares, surpassing Canada's formerly premier position with 13,066,695.

From the first Ramsar Site designation, Australia's "Cobourg Peninsula" on 8 May 1974, some 28 years elapsed before the listing of "Complejo de humedales del Abanico del río Pastaza" by Peru brought the Convention's global total over 100 million hectares on World Environment Day, 5 June 2002. (Boliva's designation of "Lagos Poopó y Uru Uru" one month later brought the global total to 103 million on 11 July 2002). Little more than a decade later, on World Wetlands Day 2013, the second tranche of 100 million has been added to the Ramsar List, a good suggestion that the pace of commitment to the conservation and sustainable use of wetland resources amongst the world's nations may be accelerating; presently the 164 Parties to the Convention have committed themselves to maintaining the ecological character of nearly 2,100 wetlands, ranging from 1 hectare to more than 6.5 million hectares, from marshes and fens to oases in arid lands, from peat bogs and intertidal mudflats to coral reefs and rivers and lakes.

World Wetlands Day celebrations took place in Bolivia on 2nd February. Read the full report on that event here.

Río Blanco (2,404,916 hectares, 13°37'59"S 063°23'35"W), including an Área Natural de Manejo Integrado and a Reserva Científica, Ecológica, Arqueológica, is a large and important system of alluvial plains in the northeast of the country, with representative flooded amazon forests. The site hosts a huge biodiversity - some 87 mammal, 433 bird, 61 reptile, and 436 fish species have been identified. It hosts three species of crocodiles (Melanosuchus niger, Caiman yacare and Paleosuchus palpebrosus) and 16 migratory bird species like Pearl Kite Gampsonyx swainsonii, Osprey Pandion haliaetus, American Golden Plover Pluvialis dominica, and White-rumped Sandpiper Calidris fuscicollis. There are 22 threatened species of vertebrates, amongst them the Giant Otter Pteronura brasiliensis, Water Opossum Chironectes minimus, and Giant Armadillo Priodontes maximus. The site also hosts more than 1% of the total population of the Neotropic Cormorant Phalacrocorax brasilianus as well as of the Giant Otter. In the Iténez River sub-basin can be found 436 fish species, about 60% of all the species to be found in the Amazon basin. Pressures from illegal exploitation of resources, especially timber and fish, are seen as a potential threat.

The Río Matos Ramsar Site (1,729,788 ha; 14°48'54"S 066°12'00"W) is composed of a great ecosystem range with recent alluvial plains, rivers, lakes, and marshes, generally representative of the Amazon's flooded forests. There are 24 threatened species of vertebrates, such as the Giant Otter Pteronura brasiliensis and Peruvian spider monkey Ateles chamek. Overall, some 102 mammal, 206 bird, 75 reptile, and 394 fish species have been identified within the site, and 17 migratory bird species can be found, like Pearl Kite Gampsonyx swainsonii, Osprey Pandion haliaetus, and Upland Sandpiper Bartramia longicauda, amongst others. The fish community of 394 species in the Marmoré river basin is said to amount to 55% of the fish species in the Amazon basin, from which 50 species of the Ramsar Site are migratory.

The Sitio Ramsar Río Yata (2,813,229 ha; 12°18'32"S 066°06'11"W) comprises a very large mosaic of ecosystems formed basically of recent alluvial plains, rivers, lakes, and marshes. Located in a transition zone, the site presents unique characteristics in terms of ecosystem formation processes and vegetal succession. It is estimated that the site supports more than 50,000 waterbirds; some 13 migratory species visit, and the site hosts more than 1% of the global population of the Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis. The fish community of the Marmoré river basin numbers 394 species, representing 55% of the fish species in the Amazon basin, and the site hosts more than 1% of the global population of the Bolivian river dolphin Inia boliviensis. There also 24 threatened species of vertebrates, including the Giant Otter. As elsewhere in the Amazon basin, the importance of rubber exploitation generates severe cultural and socio-environmental impacts which can have drastic effects on the indigenous population. The Ramsar Site is part of two Nature Reserves and the municipal Área Natural de Manejo Integrado Pampas del Río Yacuma.