Three new Ramsar sites for the Republic of Korea

Three new Ramsar sites for the Republic of Korea

5 May 2009
Republic of Korea

World's smallest Ramsar site among Korea's new designations

The paperwork has been completed for three small but extremely interesting Wetlands of International Importance that were announced by the Republic of Korea at Ramsar COP10 in Changwon, October-November 2008. Here are brief descriptions drawn from the accompanying Ramsar Information Sheets.

Ganghwa Maehwamarum Habitat (1 hectare,  37°38’N 126°32’E) in the Incheon Metropolitan City district is a human-made rice paddy wetland near the city of Incheon that was purchased by the Korea National Trust Foundation chiefly for its importance as habitat for the herbaceous water plant Maehwamareum (Ranunculus kazusensis makino), once common throughout the country but now considered to be endangered and found in only 30 places nationally. Because of eco-friendly rice farming at the site, it also functions as a refuge for aquatic plants and insects and benthic invertebrates and fish, which become food sources for migratory birds. The site is also used for educational purposes, and an educational centre is in preparation. With a real area of 0.3015 hectares (rounded up to 1 ha.), this is the smallest Ramsar site at the time of designation (previously the smallest was Australia's Hosnie's Springs on Christmas Island, 0.33 hectares).

Muljangori-oreum wetland (63 hectares, 33°24’N 126°36’E) on Jeju Island is a National Park and UNESCO World Heritage site and Biosphere Reserve that comprises a volcanic crater lake at above 900m altitude, with a forest of broad-leaved deciduous trees. On the water-scarce island, the crater lakes on such “parasitic cones” around Mt Hallasan provide an important store of rain water, and this site retains some water even through the dry season. A number of endangered fauna and flora species are present, including Peregrine falcon, Fairy pitta, Black kites, and Black paradise flycatchers, as well as Japanese forest peony (paeonia obovata). It is considered to be one of three holy mountains on the island and is associated with legends of the giant goddess Seolmundae. Only limited human access is permitted to the area.

Odaesan National Park Wetlands (2 ha; 37°48’N 128°38’E), a National Park in Gwangwon-do in the northeast, are a  complex of three small fens at about 1000m altitude on Odaesan mountain, including some of the best conserved peatlands in the country. They are home to a large number of species of flora that are considered to be endangered or at risk, as well as fauna such as Musk deer, Long-tailed goral, and Water deer, all classed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List. The site is owned by the state and public access is not permitted.