Ramsar, the International Convention on Wetlands is 40 years old today, February 2, 2011. Today the treaty includes 160 nations http://www.ramsar.org/cda/en/ramsar-about-parties-contracting-parties-to-23808/main/ramsar/1-36-123%5E23808_4000_0__ and 1,190 sites http://www.ramsar.org/cda/en/ramsar-documents-list/main/ramsar/1-31-218_4000_0__ including 28 in the United States.
In August of 2010 The Compleat Wetlander covered the basics of Ramsar and anticipated today’s historic anniversary http://aswm.org/component/wordpress/the-compleat-wetlander-getting-ready-to-celebrate-the-40th-anniversary-of-the-ramsar-convention-on-wetlands/
Over the past 40 years our collective understanding of the importance of wetlands has come a very long way. When the Ramsar treaty was originally conceived its main purpose was to address declining migratory waterbird populations. Now it is so much more.
People throughout the world now identify a host of “ecosystem services” that are provided by wetlands including flood control, groundwater replenishment, shoreline stabilization, sediment/nutrient control, water purification, biodiversity refugia, wetland products, cultural values, recreation/tourism and climate change mitigation/adaptation. http://www.ramsar.org/cda/en/ramsar-pubs-info-ecosystem-services/main/ramsar/1-30-103%5E24258_4000_0__
This year’s theme is Forests for Water and Wetlands. Forested wetlands are common throughout the world. There are many types of forested wetlands including mangroves, bottomland hardwoods, Atlantic white cedar swamps, bald cypress swamps, bogs and so on.
In the United States wetlands make up 5.5% of the surface areas of the coterminous United States. Around 95% of these wetlands are freshwater. Of these 51% are forested wetlands and 17% are shrub scrub wetlands. Together forested and shrub scrub wetlands cover approximately 64 million acres of the surface area of the lower 48. http://www.fws.gov/wetlands/_documents/gSandT/NationalReports/
Forested wetlands are not the wetlands most commonly associated with waterbird populations. Shallow water emergent wetlands and broad open areas of shallow water are the wetland types most commonly associated with those. The selection of forested wetlands this year is another demonstration of how much progress has occurred.
Forty years is a long time and changes happened slowly. It required the dedication and passion of countless people throughout many nations to grow the Ramsar convention and with it our collective understanding of the importance of wetlands to the nations of the world.
There is still a great deal of work to do. Wetlands continue to be endangered throughout the world and with their loss, the cultures of many indigenous populations are also threatened.
But this is a day for celebration. So on this, the 40th anniversary of the Ramsar convention, I am taking time to reflect on how very grateful I am for the courage and persistence of the thousands of people who have worked during the past four decades to protect and conserve wetlands. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
For more information about the 40th anniversary of Ramsar, visit the following webpages.
Ramsar 40th Anniversary celebrations: http://www.ramsar.org/cda/en/ramsar-activities-40ramsar/main/ramsar/1-63-443_4000_0__
Ramsar 40th Anniversary Commemorative Booklet
World Wetlands Day Ramsar website:
Forests for Water and Wetlands Leaflet:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: