Additional scientific and technical guidance for implementing the Ramsar wise use concept
1. AWARE of the suite of technical and scientific guidelines and other materials prepared by the Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP) to support Contracting Parties in their implementation of wetland conservation and wise use;
2. NOTING that the 8th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties (COP8) instructed the STRP to prepare further advice and guidance for consideration by Contracting Parties at COP9 on topics including, inter alia, inventory and assessment, wise use, water resource management, Ramsar site designation and management, and assessing the effectiveness of the implementation of the Convention;
3. THANKING the STRP for its work in preparing the advice and guidance annexed to this Resolution, as well as for the supporting technical reviews and reports being made available to Contracting Parties and others as Ramsar Technical Reports; and
4. ALSO THANKING the Government of Sweden and IUCN, WWF, the World Fish Centre, and the Water Research Commission (South Africa), which have provided financial support to the Panel and its Working Groups for the preparation of this advice and guidance and technical reports, and EXPRESSING GREAT APPRECIATION to the many organizations that have provided significant in-kind support to the work of the Panel;
THE CONFERENCE OF THE CONTRACTING PARTIES
5. APPROVES the Conceptual Framework for the wise use of wetlands and the maintenance of their ecological character (Annex A to this Resolution) and its updated definitions of “wise use” and “ecological character”, and CONFIRMS that these supersede all previous definitions of these terms;
6. ALSO APPROVES the revised Strategic Framework and guidelines for the future development of the List of Wetlands of International Importance (Annex B to this Resolution), INSTRUCTS the Ramsar Secretariat to introduce these changes in the preparation of a new edition of Ramsar Wise Use Handbook 7, including revisions to the Information Sheet on Ramsar Wetlands (RIS), and URGES all Contracting Parties preparing a RIS for the designation of a new site for the Ramsar List and for updating the RIS for an existing site to submit the information to the Ramsar Secretariat in this revised format;
7. WELCOMES the frameworks, guidelines and other advice provided as annexes C, D, and E to this Resolution and URGES Contracting Parties to make good use of them as appropriate, adapting them as necessary to suit national conditions and circumstances and within the frameworks of existing regional initiatives and commitments and in the context of sustainable development;
8. URGES Contracting Parties to draw these frameworks, guidelines and other advice to the attention of all relevant stakeholders, including inter alia government ministries, departments and agencies, water and basin management authorities, non-governmental organizations, and civil society; and FURTHER URGES Contracting Parties to encourage these stakeholders to take these guidelines into account, together with those of the Ramsar ‘Toolkit’ of Wise Use Handbooks 2nd edition, in their decision-making and activities which relate to the delivery of the wise use of wetlands through the maintenance of their ecological character; and
9. INSTRUCTS the Ramsar Secretariat to disseminate widely the frameworks and guidelines annexed to this Resolution, including through amendment and updating of the Ramsar ‘Toolkit’ of Wise Use Handbooks.
A Conceptual Framework for the wise use of wetlands and the maintenance of their ecological character
1. Definitions of the key Ramsar Convention concepts of “wise use” and “ecological character” of wetlands were adopted by COP3 (1987) and COP7 (1999) respectively. Action 3.1.1 of the Ramsar Strategic Plan 2003-2008 requested the Convention’s Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP) to “review the wise use concept, its applicability, and its consistency with the objectives of sustainable development”.
2. In addition, COP8 Resolution VIII.7 requested the STRP to further review and, as appropriate, develop guidance and report to COP9 concerning identified gaps and disharmonies in defining and reporting the ecological character of wetlands, including, inter alia, harmonization of definitions and terms in the guidance on inventory, assessment, monitoring and management of the ecological character of wetlands.
3. The work of the STRP has been greatly assisted by the concurrent work of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), in particular the MA’s Conceptual Framework for Ecosystems and Human Well-being (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2003. Ecosystems and Human Well-being: A Framework for Assessment. Island Press, Washington, D.C.), and its definition and description of the characteristics of ecosystems and ecosystem services.
4. The STRP determined that it is appropriate to update and harmonize the Convention’s “wise use” and “ecological character” definitions to take into account other now more-widely used terms and definitions relating to ecosystems and sustainable development, and that a conceptual framework for the delivery of “wise use” would be of assistance to Contracting Parties and others in determining when and where to make policy and management interventions to support this delivery.
5. This guidance covers harmonizing wetland ecosystem terminologies and provides both a conceptual framework for wetland wise use and updated and harmonized definitions of “ecological character”, “change in ecological character”, and the “wise use” of wetlands.
Wetland ecosystem terminology
6. Within the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), ecosystems are described as the complex of living communities (including human communities) and non-living environment (Ecosystem Components) interacting (through Ecological Processes) as a functional unit which provides inter alia a variety of benefits to people (Ecosystem Services).
7. Included in “MA Ecosystem Services” are provisioning, regulating, and cultural services that directly affect people, and supporting services which are needed to maintain these other services. Further information can be found in the Synthesis Report prepared by the MA for the Ramsar Convention (Finlayson, C.M., D’Cruz, R. & Davidson, N.C. 2005. Wetlands and water: ecosystem services and human well-being. World Resources Institute, Washington D.C). In the context of the Ramsar Convention this refers to products, functions and attributes as defined in Resolution VI.1 and expanded to include both material and non-material cultural values, benefits and functions as outlined in COP8 DOC.15 “Cultural aspects of wetlands”.
8. Terms currently used in previous Ramsar guidelines and documents are shown in Table 1 alongside those used in the MA. Further review of the harmonization of definitions and terms related to ecosystem benefits/services (with reference to Resolution VIII.7 (paragraph 15) and COP9 DOC. 16, taking into account the usage of such terms in other international fora) is needed by the STRP, to be reported to COP10.
Table 1. Comparative terminology for describing wetland ecosystems
MA Ecosystem terms
“components”, “features”, “attributes”, “properties”
Ecological Processes within and between ecosystems
“processes”, “interactions”, “properties”; “functions”
“services”, “benefits”, “values”, “functions”, “goods”, “products”
A Conceptual Framework for wetland wise use
9. The Conceptual Framework developed by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) for the maintenance of ecosystem services for human well-being and poverty reduction provides a multi-scalar approach which indicates how and where policy and management interventions and decision-making can be made (Figure 1). Under the MA framework, “wise use” equates to the maintenance of ecosystem benefits/services to ensure long term maintenance of biodiversity as well as human well-being and poverty alleviation.
MISSING TABLE [Diagram]
Figure 1. A Conceptual Framework for the Wise Use of Wetlands and the maintenance of their ecological character, and the application of the guidelines in the Ramsar ‘toolkit’ of Wise Use Handbooks 2nd edition (2004). (From the MA report to the Ramsar Convention: Ecosystem Services and Human Well-Being: Wetlands & Water: Synthesis. 2005. World Resources Institute, Washington D.C.)
10. Mapping the Ramsar Wise Use toolkit contents onto this conceptual framework also permits an assessment of the toolkit’s coverage and gaps in coverage in relation to intervention opportunities and topics. It should be noted that many of the current Ramsar wise use guidelines concern strategies and interventions to ecosystems and their processes, or strategies and interventions addressing aspects of the direct drivers of change to ecosystems. Also, these concern interventions chiefly at local or national levels, since Ramsar guidance is for Contracting Parties acting within their territories, although some guidance also applies regionally and globally (e.g., aspects of the Guidelines for International Cooperation – Handbook 9).
11. The strategies and intervention opportunities which are relevant for the application of each of the guidelines of the Ramsar toolkit are listed in Table 2.
Table 2. The application of guidelines in the Ramsar “Toolkit” of Wise Use Handbooks, supported by Ramsar Technical Reports, to different intervention opportunities in the MA’s Conceptual Framework (see Figure 1).
Relevant Ramsar Wise Use Handbooks (2nd edition), COP9 Resolutions and Ramsar Technical Reports (RTR)
Indirect drivers è Direct drivers
2. National Wetland Policies
Direct drivers è Wetland Ecosystems
4. River Basin Management
Within Wetland Ecosystems
5. Participatory Management
Covers several types of intervention opportunities (Indirect drivers è Direct drivers, Direct drivers è Wetland Ecosystems, and within Wetland Ecosystems)
1. Wise Use of Wetlands
12. Only two current Ramsar wise use guidelines - National Wetland Policies and Reviewing Legislative and Institutional Frameworks - wholly concern interventions to indirect drivers of change, although some other guidelines include some policy aspects. However, it is clear that these ‘interventions’ onto the indirect drivers of change are important to have in place if efforts to manage wetland ecosystems sustainably through the application of the rest of the suite of Ramsar wise use guidelines are to be effective and efficient. Without such a policy and legislative framework in place, there is a risk that other interventions will take place in a ‘political vacuum’ without a clear authorizing environment for their delivery, thus risking such efforts failing.
13. For some intervention opportunities indicated by the MA Conceptual Framework – for example, between indirect drivers of change and human well-being and vice versa - there are currently no Ramsar guidelines developed.
14. All aspects of the outline Guidelines for the implementation of the wise use concept adopted by COP4 (Recommendation 4.10) and most aspects of the Additional guidance for the implementation of the wise use concept adopted by COP5 (Resolution 5.6) have now been superseded by the suite of elaborated guidelines adopted by subsequent Conferences of Contracting Parties and compiled in the Ramsar toolkit of Wise Use Handbooks (see Table 2). However, three aspects of the COP5 guidance have not been further developed, those concerning “Research”, “Training” and “Technical issues” of sustainable technologies.
Updated definitions of “ecological character” and “change in ecological character” of wetlands
15. Applying the MA’s terms and concepts, under which services form an integral part of ecosystems, an updated definition of Ramsar “ecological character” is:
“Ecological character is the combination of the ecosystem components, processes and benefits services that characterise the wetland at a given point in time.”
16. The phrase “at a given point in time” refers to Resolution VI.1 paragraph 2.1, which states that “It is essential that the ecological character of a site be described by the Contracting Party concerned at the time of designation for the Ramsar List, by completion of the Information Sheet on Ramsar Wetlands (as adopted by Recommendation IV. 7).”
17. Furthermore, paragraph 2.3 of Resolution VI.1 states that “Contracting Parties are requested to verify the data which they have provided on Information Sheets on Ramsar Wetlands every six years, i.e., every second meeting of the Conference and to provide the [Secretariat] with updated sheets if necessary.” In addition, under paragraph 2.4 “Change in ecological character of a listed site should be assessed against the baseline status presented in the Information Sheet on Ramsar Wetlands, at the time of designation for the List (or at the time the Information Sheet was first provided to the [Secretariat]), together with any information which has been received subsequently.”
18. Essential to wetland management is baseline data that establishes the range of natural variation in components, processes and services at each site within a given time frame, against which change can be assessed. Contracting Parties have already adopted a range of guidance relevant to the identification, assessment, monitoring and management of the ecological character of Wetlands of International Importance and other wetlands, including wetland risk assessment (Resolution VII.10), impact assessment (Resolutions VII.16 and VIII.9), monitoring (Resolution VI.1), inventory (Resolution VIII.6), and management planning (Resolution VIII.14). In addition, the STRP is committed to the future development of a hierarchical mechanism for describing the ecological character of wetlands.
19. Consistent with the updated definition of “ecological character”, an updated definition of “change in ecological character of wetlands” is:
“For the purposes of implementation of Article 3.2, change in ecological character is the human-induced adverse alteration of any ecosystem component, process, and/or ecosystem benefit/service.”
20. The inclusion of specific reference to Article 3.2 of the Convention text within the definition is designed to clarify the maintenance obligation for the ecological character of listed Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar sites) under Article 3.2, and to note that such change concerns only adverse change caused by the actions of people. This is in line with the context of Article 3.2 and Recommendation 4.8 (1990) establishing the Montreux Record, which was re-affirmed by COP8 Resolution VIII.8. For the purposes under the Convention, this definition therefore excludes the processes of natural evolutionary change occurring in wetlands and also excludes positive human-induced change.
21. However, it should be noted that other actions adopted by the Convention, such as those concerning assessing the overall status and trends of wetlands and Ramsar sites, require information on all types of change in ecological character – positive and negative, natural and human-induced (as is recognized in COP8 DOC. 20 and by Resolution VIII.8). Likewise, the Ramsar Convention has also recognized that wetland restoration and/or rehabilitation programmes can lead to favourable human-induced changes in ecological character (Annex to Resolution VI.1, 1996) and are a key aspect of wetland management interventions (see, e.g., Annex to Resolution VIII.14).
An updated definition of the “wise use” of wetlands
22. An updated definition of “wise use”, taking into account the Convention’s mission statement, the MA’s terminology, the concepts of the ecosystem approach and sustainable use applied by the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the definition of sustainable development adopted by the 1987 Brundtland Commission, is:
23. The wise use provisions of the Convention apply, as far as possible, to all wetland ecosystems. Societal choice is inherent in advancing human well-being and poverty alleviation, which depends on the maintenance of ecosystem benefits/services. Pressures to follow sustainable development precepts, and to maintain environmental, economic and social sustainability in land use decisions, encourage compromises (“trade-offs”) between individual and collective interests.
24. Within the context of ecosystem approaches, planning processes for promoting the delivery of wetland ecosystem benefits/services should be formulated and implemented in the context of the maintenance or enhancement, as appropriate, of wetland ecological character at appropriate spatial and temporal scales.
Resolution IX.1, Annex B
Resolution IX.1, Annex C
Resolution IX.1, Annex Ci
Resolution IX.1, Annex Cii
Resolution IX.1, Annex D
Resolution IX.1, Annex E
Resolution IX.1, Annex Ei
Strategic Framework and guidelines for the future development of the List of Wetlands of International Importance
II. The vision, objectives and short-term target for the List of Wetlands of International Importance (the Ramsar List)
|Modify, as follows, the Vision for the List in the light of the updated definition of "ecological character" in Resolution IX.1, Annex A.|
To develop and maintain an international network of wetlands which are important for the conservation of global biological diversity and for sustaining human
life through the maintenance of their ecosystem components, processes and benefits/services [].
|Delete the "target for the Ramsar List to the year 2005" (box following current paragraph 21) and replace with 2010-related target adopted by COP8 Resolution VIII.26:|
To ensure that the List of Wetlands of International Importance contains at least 2,500 sites covering 250 million hectares by 2010.
IV. Guidelines for adopting a systematic approach to identifying priority wetlands for designation under the Ramsar Convention
|Add additional guidance after current paragraph 45:|
A1. Less visible interests should not be overlooked. Fish are not only an integral part of aquatic ecosystems, but are a vital source of food and income for people throughout the world. However, the production of fisheries in many parts of the world is declining as a consequence of unsustainable harvest regimes and the loss and degradation of habitats including spawning and nursery areas. Underwater species such as fish and other aquatic fauna and flora can often be overlooked in the development of cases for Ramsar site designation, unlike more visible animals and plants. Such aquatic interests should be carefully and systematically reviewed.
|Add additional guidance after current paragraph 51:|
A2. Sites of importance for the interactions between the ecosystem structure and functioning and their benefits. Wetlands exist within landscapes in which people's activities are influenced by the wetlands and their delivery of ecosystem benefits/services, and in which the wetlands themselves are influenced by the use of such benefits/services by dependent local communities (e.g., by forms of traditional management). There are many examples where the ecosystem structure and functioning of the wetland has developed as a result of cultural features or legacies. There are also many examples where the maintenance of the ecosystem structure and functioning of wetlands depends upon the interaction between human activities and the wetland's biological, chemical, and physical components.
|Move section IV.I (Guidelines for identifying and designating specific wetlands types) to follow section V, to improve readability and use of the Strategic Framework. Add new section D as follows:|
D. Guidance for identifying and designating artificial wetlands
D1. Article 1.1 of the Convention states that "For the purpose of this Convention wetlands are areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six metres."
D2. Many existing Ramsar sites are artificial (in whole or in part) in as much as they are human-made wetlands which have, in some parts of the world and especially in anthropogenic landscapes, developed international importance for biodiversity in the period following their creation.
D3. However, within the legal context of the Convention, the fact that some artificial wetlands may eventually develop importance for biodiversity should never be used as justification for the destruction, substantial modification, or conversion of natural or near-natural wetlands at a location.
V. Criteria for identifying Wetlands of International Importance, guidelines for their application, and long-term targets
Guidance for the application of Criterion 1
|Add additional guidance after current paragraph 167:|
A3. When selecting a biogeographic regionalisation scheme to apply, it is generally most appropriate to use a continental, regional, or supra-national scheme rather than a national or subnational one.
|Amend current paragraph 168 as follows:|
168. Objective 1 and, in particular 1.2 (paragraph 10 above), indicates that another consideration under this Criterion is to give priority to those wetlands whose ecological character plays a substantial role in the natural functioning of a major river basin or coastal system."Guidance for the application of Criterion 2
|Amend current paragraph 171 as follows:|
171. Ramsar sites have an important role in the conservation of globally threatened species and ecological communities. Notwithstanding the small numbers of individuals or sites that may be involved, or poor quality of quantitative data or information that may sometimes be available, particular consideration should be given to listing wetlands that support globally threatened communities or species at any stage of their life cycle using Criterion 2 or 3.
|Amend current paragraph 172 as follows, so as to remove reference to Appendices II and III of CITES (since these list those species potentially endangered by trade rather than those whose conservation may necessarily be effectively pursued by site-based conservation measures).|
172. General Objective 2.2 within this Strategic Framework urges Contracting Parties to seek to include in the Ramsar List wetlands that include threatened ecological communities or are critical to the survival of species identified as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered under national endangered species legislation/programmes or within international frameworks such as the IUCN Red Lists or Appendix I of CITES and the Appendices of CMS.
|Amend current paragraph 174 as follows:|
174. For identifying sites with threatened ecological communities, greatest conservation value will be achieved through the selection of sites with ecological communities that have one or more of the following characteristics. They:
i) are globally threatened communities or communities at risk from direct or indirect drivers of change, particularly where these are of high quality or particularly typical of the biogeographic region; and/or
ii) are rare communities within a biogeographic region; and/or
iii) include ecotones, seral stages, and communities which exemplify particular processes; and/or
iv) can no longer develop under contemporary conditions (because of climate change or anthropogenic interference for example); and/or
v) are at the contemporary stage of a long developmental history and which support a well-preserved paleoenvironmental archive; and/or
vi) are functionally critical to the survival of other (perhaps rarer) communities or particular species; and/or
vii) have been the subject of significant decline in extent or occurrence.
|Add additional guidance after current paragraph 174:|
A5. When selecting a biogeographic regionalisation scheme to apply under paragraph 174 (i) and/or (ii), it is generally most appropriate to use a continental, regional, or supra-national scheme rather than a national or subnational one.
|Add additional guidance after current paragraph 175:|
A6. Be aware also of the biological importance of many karst and other subterranean hydrological systems (see specific guidance below).Guidelines for the application of Criterion 3
|Add additional guidance after current paragraph 177:|
A7. Be aware also of the biological importance of many karst and other subterranean hydrological systems (see specific guidance below).
A8. When selecting a biogeographic regionalisation scheme to apply, it is generally most appropriate to use a continental, regional, or supra-national scheme rather than a national or subnational one.Guidelines for the application of Criterion 5
|Add additional guidance after current paragraph 183:|
A9. Criterion 5 should be applied not only to multi-species assemblages, but also to sites regularly holding more than 20,000 waterbirds of any one species.
A10. For populations of waterbirds of more than 2,000,000 individuals, a 1% threshold of 20,000 is adopted on the basis that sites holding this number are of importance under Criterion 5. To reflect the importance of the site for the species concerned, it is also appropriate to list such a site under Criterion 6.
|Add additional guidance after current paragraph 184:|
A11. Turnover of individuals,especially during migration periods, leads to more waterbirds using particular wetlands than are counted at any one point in time, such that the importance of such a wetland for supporting waterbird populations will often be greater than is apparent from simple census information.
A12. However, accurate estimation of turnover and total number of individuals of a population or population using a wetland is difficult, and several methods (e.g. cohort marking and resighting, or summing increases in a count time-series) which have at times been applied do not yield statistically reliable or accurate estimates.
A13. The only currently available method which is considered to provide reliable estimates of turnover is that of unique capture/marking and resighting/recapture of individually-marked birds in a population at a migratory staging site. But it is important to recognize that for this method to generate a reliable estimate of migration volume, its application usually requires significant capacity and resources, and for large and/or inaccessible staging areas (especially where birds in a population are widely dispersed) use of this method can present insuperable practical difficulties.
A14. When turnover is known to occur in a wetland but it is not possible to acquire accurate information on migration volume, Parties should continue to consider recognizing the importance of the wetland as a migratory staging area through the application of Criterion 4, as the basis of ensuring that their management planning for the site fully recognizes this importance.
Guidelines for the application of Criterion 6
|Add additional guidance after current paragraph 188:|
A15. At some sites, more than one biogeographical population of the same species can occur, especially during migration periods and/or where flyway systems of different populations intersect at major wetlands. Where such populations are indistinguishable in the field, as is usually the case, this can present practical problems as to which 1% threshold to apply. Where such mixed populations occur (and these are inseparable in the field) it is suggested that the larger 1% threshold be used in the evaluation of sites.
A16. However, particularly where one of the populations concerned is of high conservation status, this guidance should be applied flexibly and Parties should consider recognizing the overall importance of the wetland for both populations through the application of Criterion 4, as the basis of ensuring that their management planning for the site fully recognizes this importance. This guidance should not be applied to the detriment of smaller, high conservation status populations.
A17. Note that this guidance applies just during the period of population mixing (often, but not exclusively, this is during periods of migration). At other times, it is generally possible to assign a 1% threshold accurately to the single population that is present.
A18. Turnover of individuals, especially during migration periods, leads to more waterbirds using particular wetlands than are counted at any one point in time, such that the importance of such a wetland for supporting waterbird populations will often be greater than is apparent from simple census information. For further guidance on estimation of turnover see the guidance under Criterion 5, paragraphs A12-A14.
|Add new Criterion and guidelines:|
Specific criterion based on other taxa
A wetland should be considered internationally important if it regularly supports 1% of the individuals in a population of one species or subspecies of wetland-dependent non-avian animal species.
Long-term target for the Ramsar List:
A19. To have included in the Ramsar List all wetlands which regularly support 1% or more of a biogeographical population of one non-avian animal species or subspecies.
Guidelines for the application of Criterion 9
A20. When Contracting Parties are reviewing candidate sites for listing under this Criterion, greatest conservation value will be achieved through the selection of a suite of sites that hold populations of globally threatened species or subspecies. Refer also to paragraph  above, "Species presence in perspective", and paragraph  above, "Complementary international frameworks". Consideration may also be given to turnover of individuals of migratory animals at migration periods, so that a cumulative total is reached, if such data are available (see guidance in paragraphs [A11-A14] related to waterbirds which is also applicable to Criterion 9 in relation to non-avian animals).
A21. To ensure international comparability, where possible, Contracting Parties should use the most current international population estimates and 1% thresholds provided and regularly updated by IUCN's Specialist Groups though the IUCN Species Information Service (SIS) and published in the Ramsar Technical Report series, as the basis for evaluating sites for the List using this Criterion.
A22. This Criterion can also be applied to nationally endemic species or populations, where reliable national population size estimates exist. When making such an application of the Criterion, information concerning the published source of the population size estimate should be included in the justification for the application of this Criterion. Such information can also contribute to expanding the taxonomic coverage of the information on population estimates and 1% thresholds published
in the Ramsar Technical Report series.
A23. It is anticipated that this Criterion will be applicable to populations and species in a range of non-avian taxa including, inter alia, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish and aquatic macro-invertebrates. However, only species or subspecies for which reliable population estimates have been provided and published (paragraphs A21 and A22) should be included in the justification for the application of this Criterion. Where no such information exists, Contracting Parties should give consideration to designation for important non-avian animal species under Criterion 4. For better application of this Criterion, Contracting Parties should assist, where possible, in the supply of such data to the IUCN-Species Survival Commission and its Specialist Groups in support of the future updating and revision of
international population estimates.
Note 1: Within this context, ecosystem benefits are defined in accordance with the MA definition of ecosystem services as "the benefits that people receive from ecosystems".
Ecological "outcome-oriented" indicators for assessing the implementation effectiveness of the Ramsar Convention
1. Further to the request by 8th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 8) in Resolution VIII.26 and work by the Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP), this Annex contains an initial set of eight indicators of effectiveness for assessing selected aspects of the Convention's implementation, developed for
use where appropriate during the 2006-2008 triennium.
2. The eight initial indicators (Table 1) provide a basis for evaluating some of the ecological outcomes resulting from implementation of the Ramsar Convention, hence giving some much-needed response to the fundamental question of whether or not the Convention is succeeding in achieving its mission.
3. In doing this, they differ from the "process-oriented" indicators such as those in the COP9 National Report Format, the Convention's Strategic Plan 2003-2008, and the Strategic Framework for the Implementation of the Convention (Resolution IX.8). However, all of these different indicators are designed to operate in a linked and complementary way. Indeed, a number of the National Report Format "process-oriented" indicators will be needed for, and used in, the analyses and assessment of each of the indicators of effectiveness.
4. This approach is part of an integrated updating of monitoring and reporting processes under the Convention, including an intention to simplify the National Report Format for COP10 (see Resolution IX.8). Taken in combination, these updated processes will be designed in such a way that there should be no net additional
burden of analysis and reporting for Contracting Parties compared to the present. In concert with moves to streamline and harmonise reporting across related
Multilateral Environmental Agreements, ideally the overall burden could in fact reduce. Some of the indicators in any event rely on analyses at global level rather than implying that this be done by Parties.
5. The eight initial indicators are considered to be those which are presently feasible to implement with existing, or readily collectible, data and information, though this remains to be tested. In several cases this information will consist of qualitative evaluations, which can yield valuable insights.
6. The results produced will be relevant also for other global assessment processes. Successful implementation of the Ramsar Convention will assist in achieving the target of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to significantly reduce the rate of loss of biodiversity by 2010, and these indicators will contribute to measuring aspects of the degree of implementation for this target. Reports based on relevant effectiveness indicators in this Annex, aimed at informing the 2010 process, are envisaged for 2008 and 2011. In the spirit of synergy among the biodiversity-related conventions, these indicators are also likely to help Contracting Parties report against CBD targets for its Programmes of Work on inland waters and marine and coastal biodiversity.
7. It is important to recognise, however, that indicators of Ramsar effectiveness would need to go a step further beyond the related 'biodiversity status and trends' indicators such as those developed by the CBD for assessing achievement of the 2010 biodiversity target, and that not all such status and trends indicators
can necessarily be used directly to give clear indications of the Convention's effectiveness.
8. The geographical scale of data sources for the eight effectiveness indicators differs. Some of the indicators are designed to operate at supranational level and to be coordinated internationally, but may nevertheless draw upon data from site, basin/catchment, and/or national level. Others are designed for data collection
at site, basin/catchment or national scale.
9. For each indicator, initial implementation has been designed to be through one or more 'sub-indicators' focusing on specific aspects of the indicator theme. For some indicators, a number of additional sub-indicators have been identified for potential future development, such that the overall suite of indicators can build progressively into an increasingly more informative and useful picture of Convention effectiveness, while observing the constraints referred to above concerning the burden of Contracting Party reporting.
10. Table 1 lists the indicator themes, indicators and initial sub-indicators, and their purpose, and also provides an indication of the expected role and responsibilities of Contracting Parties in the application of each indicator. A further five indicators are recommended for further consideration and future development by the STRP (Table 2).
11. Fact sheets providing guidance for the application and operation of each of these indicators and sub-indicators have been developed by the STRP. These fact
sheets are provided in the Annex to COP9 DOC. 18. The standard format for these fact sheets is provided here in Appendix 1.
12. Further work will be needed to elaborate details concerning construction and operation of the indicators, including sub-indicators, processes and mechanisms for data collection, compilation, analysis, assessment, reporting, publishing and disseminating the results and conclusions generated, and this has been identified as an immediate priority for the STRP and Secretariat in the 2006-2008 triennium in the schedule of actions for scientific and technical implementation of the Convention (Resolution IX.2). Pilot testing to confirm feasibility and other aspects will also be undertaken.
13. However, whilst these aspects are under development, the indicators will be available to Parties and others to use should they wish (using the fact sheets in COP9 DOC. 18) for assessments at national level. This will form part of the learning process in refining and focusing the future role and operations of the Convention.
14. In general, only a very restricted basis for the measurement and assessment of the Convention's ecological effectiveness has so far been available. This is partly a function of the complexity of developing ecological effectiveness questions. It is also a function of limited existence of usable datasets upon which to base
relevant measures. The need to make assessments using the ecological "outcome-oriented" indicators of effectiveness provided in this Annex reinforces the need for the maintenance of effective and up-to-date information sources, including from full COP National Reporting, the maintenance and further development of the information on Ramsar sites in the Ramsar Sites Information Service, and improvements in the availability of information on the status and trends of the ecological character of Ramsar sites, in line with Article 3.2 of the Convention and Resolution VIII.8.
Table 1. The initial set of eight indicators of effectiveness of the implementation of the Ramsar Convention.
|Indicator theme||Indicator title||Sub-indicator(s) title||Purpose||Role of Contracting Parties (CPs)|
|Wetland resource - status||A. The overall conservation status of wetlands||
i. Status and trends in wetland ecosystem extent
ii. Trends in conservation status - qualitative assessment
Sub-indicator i. The indicator shows how the area of particular wetland types has changed through time. Because the Ramsar Convention aims to 'stem the
Sub-indicator ii. The indicator shows how the conservation status of wetlands at large is changing. Current and past trends in conservation status are
Sub-indicator i. National landcover and resource assessments provide potentially relevant data for this indicator, and CPs should both harness such relevant data for their own purposes and ensure that it is available to contribute to regional and global assessments. In addition, the COP9 National Report
Sub-indicator ii. CPs can assist in the aquisition of data from wetland sites and complexes within their territories, including through identifying appropriate wetland managers and other experts like STRP National Focal Points (NFPs) to participate in wetland assessments, and implementing assessments of national wetland resources using this approach. Existence of a wetland inventory or at least an inventory of wetlands which will be assessed under this indicator will assist the process. There are also links with specific COP9 National Report Format fields and to the information provided in the "conservation status" field of RISs when they are updated.
|Ramsar sites - status||B. The status of the ecological character of Ramsar sites||i. Trends in the status of Ramsar site ecological character - qualitative assessment||This indicator examines the extent to which the commitments under Article 3 of the Convention are being achieved, focusing on past and present trends in the ecological character status of designated Ramsar sites. As for indicator A ii. it will be implemented initially through qualitative assessment methods. Comparison with the results of indicator A ii. will also provide insights into how the status of Ramsar sites has changed relative to non-designated wetlands.||
CPs will need to assist in linking with those responsible for maintenance, management and monitoring of Ramsar sites within their territory to supply information, in the first instance likely to be in the form of a short qualitative assessment questionnaire (which it is anticipated will also yield data and information for the application of indicators A and D).
In addition to the qualitative assessment approach, it is likely that quantitative assessment for some Ramsar sites will already be possible, drawing upon e.g. the European Space Agency's TESEO and GlobWetland projects and upon data from Contracting Parties that have monitoring programmes operating and reporting for designated sites within their territories.
|Water quality and quantity - status||C. Trends in water quality||
i. Trends in dissolved nitrate (or nitrogen) concentration
ii. Trends in Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD)
Sub-indicator i. The indicator shows how levels of nitrogen in inland waters are changing over time, and it reflects both pollution and trophic changes
The principal contributor to dissolved nitrogen concentration is nitrate from fertiliser run-off and other sources of pollution. It is a standard component of water quality monitoring. At site level, trends in dissolved nitrogen concentration are a component of site status and a reflection of how well a site's immediate
Sub-indicator ii. The indicator shows how levels of organic pollution in inland waters are changing over time. Increasing average BOD in a given water
|Sub-indicators i. & ii. Many of the relevant data are already collected by local, regional or national monitoring programmes by reaearch institutes and government agencies. CPs will need to maintain and/or enhance water quality monitoring programmes and to mobilise the resulting data and metadata. It is anticipated, however, that in the first instance analsyses can be chiefly undertaken drawing upon the datasets compiled from such sources through the established UNEP GEMS-Water mechanisms, as will be done for the related CBD 2010 indicator assessments.|
|Ramsar sites - threats||D. The frequency of threats affecting Ramsar sites||i. The frequency of threats affecting Ramsar sites - qualitative assessment||If the Convention is effective in its aim of promoting the conservation of Ramsar sites and maintaining their ecological character (Article 3.1, Resolution VIII.8), then not only will potential unwanted changes in the ecological character of sites be averted by protective policy and decision-making regimes
and site management, but risks and proposals which would pose such threats should diminish in frequency over time, as awareness of the status of sites increases and as the conservation objectives for them are more widely shared. This indicator is designed to show whether or not this trend occurs. In the first instance it may only be able to show the absolute trend, but the indicator should be developed further in due course in order to show whether threats are reducing relatively more than the trend for threats generally (e.g. in a country), and relatively more in relation to Ramsar sites than in relation to undesignated wetlands. As for indicators A ii. and B, it will be implemented initially through qualitative assessment methods.
|CPs will need to assist in linking with those responsible for the maintenance, management and monitoring of Ramsar sites within their territory to supply information, in the first instance likely to be in the form of a short qualitative assessment questionnaire (which it is anticipated will also yield data and information for the application of indicators A and B). In addition, CPs' National Reports and reports under Article 3.2 will yield relevant information. Links to
BirdLife International's Important Bird Areas (IBA) monitoring (which takes a similar approach to that defined here) will assist where the IBA is also
a Ramsar site. Likewise, WWF's wetland management effectiveness tool, which is currently being developed and pilot tested, is anticipated to provide
CPs with a contributory mechanism (see also indicator E).
|Wetland management||E. Wetland sites with successfully implemented conservation or wise use management plans||i. Wetland sites with successfully implemented conservation or wise use management plans||The key feature of this indicator is the "successful implementation" of management plans, i.e. that the defined management objectives for the site's ecological character are being met and assessed through monitoring in line with Resolution VIII.14. It is the success of conservation and wise use
that is being assessed, beyond the existence of management activity. The indicator can be applied both to designated Ramsar sites and to other wetlands with established management planning processes. Assessment of this indicator in relation to results for the same wetlands from indicators A to D will provide further insights into the effectiveness of management planning processes under the Convention in maintaining wetland ecological character.
|CPs will need to assist in linking with those responsible for the maintenance, management and monitoring of both Ramsar sites and other wetlands within their territory to supply information. WWF's wetland management effectiveness tool, which is currently being developed and pilot tested, is anticipated to provide CPs with a contributory mechanism (see also indicator D).|
|Species/biogeographic populations status||F. Overall population trends of wetland taxa||i. Trends in the status of waterbird biogeographic populations||Waterbirds are widely regarded as indicators of wetland health, and migratory populations can be seen as integrators of ecosystem status along flyways. Many populations aggregate during at least some times of the year (either in breeding colonies, at migratory staging areas, and/or non-breeding feeding grounds) - at these times they are likely to be responsive to site designation and protection and habitat management interventions. This indicator will show, at the biogeographic population level, in which regions and seasons and on which flyways waterbirds are in relatively healthy and relatively unhealthy status, thus indicating
the extent of effectiveness of the Convention in relation to commitments to maintain flyway-scale site networks. It can act as a 'headline indicator' of high public profile.
|The main datasets to be used for this indicator (Wetlands International's International Waterbird Census (IWC) and Waterbird Population Estimates (WPE)) are analysed and reported at supra-national biogeographic population and flyway scales. CPs have a role in ensuring that any site and national data they collect
is made available to these processes, in line with Resolution VIII.38. In addition, where a national waterbird monitoring scheme exists which generates
national status and trend information, CPs have a role in ensuring that its results and analyses are made available to further inform the global, regional and flyway scale assessments.
|Threatened Species||G. Changes in threat status of wetland taxa||
i. trends in the status of globally-threatened wetland-dependent birds;
ii. trends in the status of globally-threatened wetland-dependent amphibians
The status and change in status at the species level (cf. the more detailed biogeographic population level of indicator F) of globally-threatened species on the IUCN Red List provides an assessment of the effectiveness of the Convention processes, notably Ramsar site designation under Criterion 2 to safeguard species at risk of extinction.
Compiled datasets and analyses by the Red List Consortium already exist in the form of Red List Indices of change in status over time for the initial sub-indicators for birds and amphibians and can be disaggregated for wetland-dependent species and for regions. It is anticipated that further sub-indicators for other globally-threatened taxa can be developed subsequently, as further Red List time-series assessments are made.
The main datasets used for this indicator are not collected and reported at national scale, but rather are analysed and prepared globally by the Red List Consortium, drawing on global and regional expert IUCN / BirdLife / Wetlands International Specialist Group networks.
In addition, since Ramsar Criterion 2 allows also for designation of wetlands for nationally-threatened species, there is opportunity for CPs to report on the status and change in status of such species within their territories, so as to further inform the global and regional assessments.
|Ramsar Site designation progress||H. The proportion of candidate Ramsar sites designated so far for wetland types/features||i. coverage of the wetland resource by designated Ramsar sites||
The Convention's Strategic Framework for Ramsar site designation calls for a "coherent and comprehensive national and international network" of Ramsar sites. This indicator assesses the extent to which this goal has so far been delivered for different wetland types in the Ramsar classification (and other features), and the implications for Convention effectiveness of the extent of this delivery. The assumption underlying this indicator is that designating wetlands as Ramsar sites affords an increased degree of safeguard of the ecological character of these sites through, for example, raised awareness of the importance of the site leading to reduced development or conversion pressure, the application of legislation to safeguard the wetland, and/or management planning processes designed to maintain the ecological character of the site. This assumption is tested by indicator B on the ecological character status of Ramsar sites in relation to indicator
(Note that there are close links between the approach under this indicator, and that for indicator I, proposed for further development (see Table 2), concerning coverage by the Ramsar site network at the biogeographic range and flyway-scale of waterbird populations.)
As for indicator A, improvements in the availability of national wetland inventory information (in line with Resolution VIII.6) would make a significant contribution to the scope of implementation of this indicator, as will the establishment of candidate lists of potential Ramsar sites as called for in Resolution VIII.10. The indicator will also provide an approach to the STRP's task of defining what is meant by "under-representataion" in the Ramsar List, in relation to the intent of the Ramsar sites Strategic Framework.
Table 2. Indicators recommended for further consideration and future development by the STRP
|Indicator theme||Indicator title||Purpose|
|Ramsar site designation progress||I. Coverage of wetland-dependent bird populations by designated Ramsar sites||
The Convention's Strategic Framework for Ramsar site designation calls for a "coherent and comprehensive national and international network" of Ramsar sites, and its long-term targets for waterbird Criteria 5 and 6 are for all wetlands qualifying to be designated. This indicator would assess the extent to which this target has so far been delivered for waterbirds and the implications for Convention effectiveness of the extent of this delivery. Thus the
During its 2003-2005 work, the STRP concluded that further consideration of the potential data sources and analysis mechanisms was needed, and that planned future development of the Ramsar Sites Datatbase in relation to incorporation of species information would facilitate future implementation of the indicator.
|Wetland ecosystem benefits/services||J. The economic costs of unwanted floods and droughts||
The first tranche of effectiveness indicators does not include any indicators assessing the Convention's effectiveness in relation to the provision of wetland ecosystem benefits/services other than biodiversity benefits/services, which this proposed indicator would be designed to address. The STRP anticipates that this indicator would focus on aspects of regulating benefits/services, in relation to the Convention's increasing attention to the impacts of natural disasters (Resolution VIII.35 and [COP9 DR 10]). The working hypothesis for this indicator would be that proper application of the Convention's "wise use" policies reduces the incidence and impact of such events and the resultant economic losses which occur.
During its 2003-2005 work the STRP considered that further work to develop the precise formulation of this indicator was needed, and that there is a need to explore further whether there are existing data sources compiled by other organizations which could inform its assessment.
|Water quality and quantity - status||K. Trends in water quantity||This indicator, and the several possible sub-indicators on this theme, would be designed to complement indicator C on trends in water quality. However, although there are a number of possible status and trends indicators relating to different aspects of water quantity and its implications for the ecological character of wetlands, during its 2003-2005 deliberations the STRP concluded that further review was needed to determine if, and how, any of these could be clearly related to the effectiveness of Convention implementation.|
|Legislative & policy responses||L. Legislative amendments implemented to reflect Ramsar provisions||The proposed indicator is included to ensure that legislative aspects of Convention effectiveness are included in the overall suite of indicators. Although it is basically a "means objective" indicator rather than an "ends objective" indicator, it is a powerful one which should relate to meaningful and enduring change, particularly when assessed in conjunction with other indicators. Examples such as the removal of perverse incentives would be significant in relation to defined Convention goals. It is also one of the clearest types of issue to include in a "response indicators" category. One of its strengths is that it should be easier with this indicator than with many others to attribute change directly to the Ramsar Convention. If the indicator, once further developed, includes aspects of the application of enforcement/compliance controls, that would increase the extent to which such a legislation indicator reflects a genuine gain in effectiveness rather than only a "paper gain".|
|Legislative & policy responses||
M. Wise use policy
|An indicator covering this theme would examine the extent to which the establishment and implementation of "wise use" policies have proved an effective mechanism under the Convention for establishing an authorising environment for achieving the wise use of wetlands (under Article 3.1of the Convention), in the context of sustainable development. Although on its own the indicator would have aspects of a "process-oriented" response indicator, its assessment
in conjunction with a number of the other effectiveness indicators would yield an understanding of this aspect of effectiveness. However, as part of the further consideration needed on this indicator, the STRP will examine whether, rather than treating it as a separate effectiveness indicator, it may prove most effective to examine this issue from the assessment of each habitat and species indicator in relation to the existence and implementation of wetland wise use policies, drawing on process indicator information provided in CPs' National Reports.
Information fields in the standard fact sheet for Ramsar's indicators of effectiveness of the implementation of the Convention
- Indicator theme
- Indicator code
- Indicator title
- Sub-indicator title
- Purpose (summary for decision-makers of what the indicator shows including relation to convention effectiveness (hypotheses) and assumptions about surrogacy)
- Relationship to other Ramsar indicators and sub-indicators
- Relevance to 2010 targets and other indicator processes
- Broad types of data required
- Role of Contracting Parties (including relationship of indicator to Ramsar National Reports process)
- Scale(s) (global, regional, national, sub-national/site or combination of these)
- Periodicity and timing of (a) data-collation and analysis; and (b) presentation of results
- Data sources and aquisition (following Resolution VIII.6 standard record for meta-inventory, and including data accessibility and costs)
- Data custodians and coordinators (following Resolution VIII.6 standard record for meta-inventory)
- Data collators and analysts
- Type of statistics generated and units
- Presentation of results (described in summary here, and if possible illustrated by some worked examples, e.g. of graphics, to the relevant fact sheet)
- Limitations, and assumptions (caveats to interpretation and minimum requirements for validity)
- Action steps required for development and implementation of the indicator
- Costs and sources of support
- Future possible enhancements of the indicator and/or its use