Asian governments urged to strengthen wetland protection
Almost 1,000 internationally important wetlands in Asia have not yet been recognised under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, according to a new report launched by BirdLife International this week at the Ramsar COP9 international wetlands conference taking place in Kampala, Uganda.
Important Bird Areas and potential Ramsar sites in Asia identifies 1,111 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) which contain wetland areas that qualify as Ramsar Sites. Asian governments have so far designated a total of 144 Ramsar Sites, which protect all or part of 120 IBAs. This means that 991 or 89% of the potential sites identified in the BirdLife International report have not yet been afforded protection under the Ramsar Convention.
BirdLife data shows that wetlands in many part of Asia are under great pressure from agricultural intensification and expansion, industrialisation and urbanisation, and over-exploitation of natural resources (including unsustainable hunting and fishing). As a consequence, 91 wetland-dependent bird species in the Asia region are listed as globally threatened in the IUCN Red List.
"Conserving the sites highlighted in this new report is important because of the global significance of the waterbirds and other biodiversity they support. Improved protection of wetlands is vital if we are to prevent the extinctions of many of Asia’s unique waterbirds." —Mike Crosby, Research & Data Manager of BirdLife’s Asia Division
Important Bird Areas and potential Ramsar Sites in Asia shows that all countries and territories in Asia have at least one IBA site that qualifies for Ramsar designation, with particularly high numbers found in Mainland China (205 IBAs – 92% of the country's total qualifying IBAs), India (159 IBAs or 91%), Japan (112 IBAs or 90%) and eastern Russia (118 IBAs or 89%).
Simba Chan, Senior Conservation Officer with BirdLife's Asia Division said, "The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands provides an excellent opportunity to strengthen the protection and management of Asia’s wetlands. We urge governments in the region to consider the designation of additional Ramsar Sites in their countries, for the benefit of biodiversity and human livelihoods. Over the next few years we hope that many more Ramsar sites will be created in Asia."
There are already encouraging signs. Japan has recently announced (10 Nov) the designation of 20 new Ramsar Sites, nine of which are IBAs. This shows how useful IBAs are in helping to identify Ramsar Sites, and highlights the importance of Important Bird Areas and potential Ramsar Sites in Asia as a conservation tool.