Ramsar Convention for Wetlands

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The Convention

The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, called the Ramsar Convention, is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. The treaty was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971 and the Convention's member countries cover all geographic regions of the planet. In 2013, there are 163 contracting parties, 2065 registered wetlands of international importance covering 197 347 539 ha.


The Convention's mission is: The conservation and wise use ("the maintenance of their ecological character, achieved through the implementation of ecosystem approaches, within the context of sustainable development") of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world.

The Convention uses a broad definition of the types of wetlands covered in its mission, including lakes and rivers, swamps and marshes, wet grasslands and peatlands, oases, estuaries, deltas and tidal flats, near-shore marine areas, mangroves and coral reefs, and human-made sites such as fish ponds, rice paddies, reservoirs, and salt pans.

Synergies with other environment-related conventions and organizations

  • The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
  • The Convention on Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS)
  • UNESCO World Heritage Convention
  • United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)
  • United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

The Convention cooperates with many regional conventions and basin commissions and has close relationships with other official bodies.

Major provisions of the Convention

Article 2.1. Each Contracting Party shall designate suitable wetlands within its territory for inclusion in a List of Wetlands of International Importance. The boundaries of each wetland shall be precisely described and also delimited on a map and they may incorporate riparian and coastal zones adjacent to the wetlands, and islands or bodies of marine water deeper than six metres at low tide lying within the wetlands, especially where these have importance as waterfowl habitat.

Article 3.1. The Contracting Parties shall formulate and implement their planning so as to promote the conservation of the wetlands included in the List, and as far as possible the wise use of wetlands in their territory.

Article 3.2. Each Contracting Party shall arrange to be informed at the earliest possible time if the ecological character of any wetland in its territory and included in the List has changed, is changing or is likely to change as the result of technological developments, pollution or other human interference.

Article 4.2. Where a Contracting Party in its urgent national interest, deletes or restricts the boundaries of a wetland included in the List, it should as far as possible compensate for any loss of wetland resources, and in particular it should create additional nature reserves for waterfowl and for the protection, either in the same area or elsewhere, of an adequate portion of the original habitat.

Article 4.3. The Contracting Parties shall encourage research and the exchange of data and publications regarding wetlands and their flora and fauna.

Article 5.1. The Contracting Parties shall consult with each other about implementing obligations arising from the Convention especially in the case of a wetland extending over the territories of more than one Contracting Party or where a water system is shared by Contracting Parties. They shall at the same time endeavour to coordinate and support present and future policies and regulations concerning the conservation of wetlands and their flora and fauna.

European Legislation

In the European Union, many provisions of the Ramsar Convention have been incorporated in the legally binding Birds Directive and Habitats Directive, see the article Birds Directive, Habitats Directive, NATURA 2000


General website - Ramsar Convention for Wetlands

The main author of this article is Magdalena Muir
Please note that others may also have edited the contents of this article.

Citation: Magdalena Muir (2019): Ramsar Convention for Wetlands. Available from http://www.coastalwiki.org/wiki/Ramsar_Convention_for_Wetlands [accessed on 18-05-2024]