What is the RAMSAR Conservation?
The Wetlands Convention is an intergovernmental treaty that was approved on February 2nd, 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar, located on the southern coast of the Caspian Sea. Ramsar is first among modern intergovernmental treaties regarding conservation and rational use of natural resources.
The mission of the Convention is the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world.
The official name of the treaty – Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as Habitat for Waterfowl- expresses its initial emphasis on conservation and wise use of wetlands especially to provide waterfowl habitat. Nevertheless, throughout the years, the Convention has increased its scope with the objective to cover all aspects of conservation and wise use of wetlands, acknowledging that wetlands are extremely important ecosystems for biological diversity conservation in general and for the wellbeing of human communities. For this reason the treaty’s abbreviated title version is utilized, “Wetlands Convention”, or most commonly, the “Ramsar Convention”.
Who are its members?
The Convention came into force in 1975 and in December of 2002 it consisted of 135 Contracting Parties or Member States.
UNESCO serves as depository for the Convention, but its administration has been trusted to a secretariat known as the “Ramsar Oficce” housed in the headquarters of IUCN – International Union for Conservation of Nature, in Gland, Switzerland, under the authority of the Conference of Parties and the Permanent Committee of the Convention. For more information about RAMSAR go to http://www.ramsar.org/index_key_docs.htm
What is a Wetland for Ramsar?
The Ramsar Convention considers wetlands all the marshes extensions, swamps and bogs, or any surface covered by water, whether these be natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt water, including extensions of sea water whose depth on low tide does not exceed six meters (~19 feet).
The wetlands perform fundamental ecological functions, such as regulating hydrologic regimes and as habitat of a very rich biodiversity of flora and fauna. The wetlands are also a resource of great economic, cultural, scientific, and recreational importance that must be preserved. The progressive intrusion to the wetlands and the extinction of these are a serious environmental harm and many times it is irreparable, therefore it should be avoided.
The wetlands can be conserved through their wise use, that is to say, through a sustainable use that grants human benefit in a way compatible with the preservation of the natural properties of the ecosystem.
The Contracting Parties or Member States choose sites within its territories talking into account their international importance in ecological, botanical, zoological, limnological, and hydrological terms that are evaluated through the implementation of the Criteria for the Identification of Wetlands and their International Importance for Conservation.
The inclusion of sites in the Ramsar List gives prestige that brings international recognition and with it the duty for governments to take measures to ensure the preservation of their site’s ecological characteristics.
When adhering to the Convention each Contracting Party or Member State, commits to designate at least one site to be included in the List of Wetlands of International Importance. The Contracting Parties can designate other sites for inclusion in the list, or enlarge the limits of the designated site at any moment.
Criteria for the Identification of Wetlands of International Importance
Obligations of the Contracting Parties:
a) Designation of Wetlands of Importance b) Establishment of nature reserves c) Training and information exchange d) Consultation on trans-boundary wetlands
RAMSAR in Ecuador
Ecuador is a Contracting Party since 1990, entered into force on January 7th of 1991 (22 years). To date Ecuador has designated 18 sites that cover an area of around 286.659 hectares, of which the 86% is found within protected areas and 14% does not have an official protection category.
At the regional level, both coastal and highland regions have 49% of the country’s RAMSAR wetlands, the amazon region with 2%, and the island region does not have RAMSAR wetlands.