The Ramsar Convention and Wetland Monitoring

1998

Internal Report 289
Finlayson CM
Supervising Scientist Division
Department of the Environment

About the report

Australia was the first Contracting Party to the Ramsar Wetland Convention. This was in 1974. Under the Convention we are required to maintain the ecological character of internationally important wetlands by making wise use of them. This concept could arguably be extended to all wetlands, but let us not digress (for the moment). If we do not maintain the ecological character of a wetland we should report this to the Convention and enter the wetland on a special list until we repair the damage. However, before we could make use of this list we need to implement monitoring regimes to establish a baseline and to determine if the ecological character has been adversely changed. To assist Contracting Parties in this matter the Convention has developed a protocol for designing wetland-monitoring programs. This is in effect a series of logical steps with feedback loops. Further, it is recommended that all Ramsar listed wetlands be covered by management plans that embrace relevant monitoring programs. It is also recommended that early warning systems be adopted at Ramsar sites. Again, a wetland risk assessment framework has been established to assist Contracting Parties to do this. The main features of these processes are briefly described as a prelude to assessing whether or not they are useful.