Strengthening wetland conservation in the Barents Euro-Arctic Region

Strengthening wetland conservation in the Barents Euro-Arctic Region

2 July 2013

The city of Bodø in Norway hosted the seventh meeting of the Habitat Contact Forum (HCF VII) from 11 to 13 June. HCF activities are part of the Nature Protection Subgroup (NPS) activities of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council’s Working Group on Environment (BEAC WGE). Laura Máiz-Tomé, Assistant Advisor for Europe at the Ramsar Secretariat, took part in the meeting since many of the topics that were discussed (establishment of new protected areas, management of existing protected areas, measures for the conservation of biological diversity) are closely related to the work of the Ramsar Convention.

City of Bodø, Norway

Established in 1999, the International Contact Forum on Habitat Conservation (HCF) is an arena for discussion and cooperation on habitat conservation in the Barents Region. The Forum convenes every second year and participation in the forum is open to federal and regional authorities in the Barents Region, representatives from indigenous people organisations, as well as relevant and interested organisations and institutions. This year’s conference was organised by the Norwegian Directorate for Nature Management in co-operation with the County Governor of Nordland. A total of 50 participants, including representatives of ministries of environment, national and regional authorities, institutions, scientific and other organisations from Finland, Norway, Russian Federation and Sweden took part in this year’s meeting.

Source: Barents Euro-Arctic Council website (

The Forum focused on the establishment of new protected areas, management of existing protected areas, and other measures that will contribute to the conservation of biological diversity in the Barents Region. The Barents Region supports an extensive network of wetlands which are extremely vulnerable ecosystems requiring conservation, wise use and transboundary cooperation for their effective management. Barents coastal wetlands are crucial for global climate and biodiversity. They provide year-round habitat for marine mammals and support many migratory species. Moreover, the Barents region also contains some of the richest fisheries in the world and large populations of seabirds which are very important natural link between sea and land ecosystems.

Tverlandet Nature Reserve, Nordland County, Norway

The main topics discussed during the conference were:

  • Habitat Conservation in the Barents Region: Status and Trends

  • Wetlands and Coastal Areas

  • Protection of Boreal Forests

  • Geodiversity

  • Implementing the Ramsar Convention and the Convention on Biological Diversity in the BEAR

  • Barents Protected Aras Network (BPAN).

These key topics are part of the resolution adopted at the end of the Forum. Click here to download the resolution [PDF].

Many of the discussed topics are closely related to the work of the Ramsar Convention. Laura Máiz-Tomé from Ramsar gave a presentation on how to strengthen the implementation of the Ramsar Convention in the Barents region, highlighting the importance of:

  • Designating new coastal Ramsar Sites, particularly in Russia where the bigger gaps exist.

  • Wise Use of wetlands through the establishment of National Wetlands Committees, development of Comprehensive National Wetlands Policies and mainstreaming Wetland across sectoral policies.

  • Transboundary Cooperation using existing structures and programmes such as the Fennoscandian Greenbelt and the Barents Protected Areas Network- BPAN.

  • Multi-Level Governance and work in close partnership with other sectors of government, focal points of other MEAs, NGOs and civil society in order to ensure that the role and importance of wetlands is fully recognized.

  • Effective Communication, using the tools provided by the Ramsar Convention (TEEB Report, Resolutions, Handbooks, Recommendations, etc.) in order to achieve a good understanding in all sectors of our societies of the value of wetlands and their services to underpin sound decision-making and trade-offs and recognize the important role of wetlands in climate change mitigation and adaptation. 

Saltstraumen, Nordland County, Norway

The messages from HCF VII will be followed up through the Nature Protection Subgroup NPS (Chair: Anna Kuhmonen) and the Working Group of Environment – WGE (Chair: Henna Haapala). The main issues and recommendations should be included in a declaration to be handled by the Environmental Ministers of the Barents Region at their meeting in Finland in December 2013.

Report and photos by Laura Máiz-Tomé, Assistant Advisor for Europe