International boost for UK wetlands trust

Posted: Friday 20th January 2012

The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust is forging closer ties with more than 150 governments that have committed to safeguarding wetlands through an international treaty.

WWT Chief Executive Martin Spray will sign a Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) with the Ramsar wetlands convention, which aims to a protect wetlands globally and promote their ‘wise use’.

The MoC underlines WWT’s contribution to Ramsar in areas including the conservation of threatened species, poverty alleviation and disease control.

WWT founder Sir Peter Scott was a driving force behind the treaty which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. WWT works with organisations in several countries helping to protect wetlands. Six WWT centres are now part of larger Ramsar sites.

Martin Spray said: “The principles behind the Ramsar treaty echo those of WWT and having this opportunity to cement our ties with an organisation of such integrity and repute underscores our experience and expertise.

“We are helping to protect endangered waterbirds in many countries and supporting those nations as they establish their own conservation infrastructure. This agreement recognises our work to date and the priceless global role wetlands play.”

The amount of inland wetland across the world has halved in the last 100 years with wetlands being lost or damaged more quickly than any other habitat.

Concern at this rapid disappearance prompted work to establish the Ramsar convention. Global cooperation was required because wetlands often straddle national borders or affect water supplies, wildlife and environments in more than one country.

Many wetland species are migratory, flying thousands of miles between breeding and overwintering sites. WWT has helped establish wetland and species protection in countries including Guyana, Madagascar and in the Yangtze River floodplain in China – Asia’s most important wintering site for migrant waterbirds.

WWT also contributes scientific and policy expertise to Ramsar, on topics ranging from the re-introduction of species to sites they previously inhabited to the health and environmental implications of the illegal use of lead shot.

Currently 160 governments have signed the Ramsar treaty including the UK. Membership gives access to expertise, funding for wetland protection, publicity and prestige.

The UK has more Ramsar sites, 168, than any other country. They include the Thames Estuary, Carlingford Lough in Northern Ireland and Loch Lomond. Mangroves in Bermuda, several South Atlantic islands and Falkland Island beaches are also of UK responsibility as parts of Overseas Territories.

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