Managing Ramsar Sites

Contracting Parties are expected to manage their Ramsar Sites so as to maintain their ecological character and retain their essential functions and values for future generations.

Article 3.1 of the Convention specifies that “Contracting Parties shall formulate and implement their planning so as to promote the conservation of the wetlands included in the List” as well as promoting the wise use of all the wetlands in their territory.

Resolution 5.7 and Resolution VIII.14 called for management plans for all Ramsar Sites, with appropriate support and funds for implementation and training of staff, and including a monitoring programme with indicators on the Site’s ecological character.

In 2015 the Contracting Parties identified the effective conservation and management of the Ramsar Site Network as one of the three strategic goals of the Fourth Convention Strategic Plan for 2016-2024. The Plan calls for efforts to enable the participation of stakeholders, including indigenous peoples and local communities.

The Ramsar Sites management toolkit provides simple guidance to site managers on the key steps and components involved in managing a Ramsar Site. It also identifies and provides links to more detailed information.

Ecological character

The ecological character of a Site is fundamental. Its description is an essential part of the designation process, and its maintenance provides the basis of management and monitoring actions. Similarly, the Convention has procedures to respond to possible change in a Site’s ecological character.

Transboundary Ramsar Sites

Many internationally important wetlands extend as one ecologically coherent whole across national borders. In these cases, Contracting Parties can agree to establish Ramsar Sites on their territory as parts of a bigger Transboundary Ramsar Site. The authorities on both or all sides of the border agree to collaborate in the management of the Transboundary Site, and notify the Secretariat of their intent.

Ramsar Sites protected under multiple schemes

Many Ramsar Sites are also protected under national schemes or regional systems such as the European Union’s Natura 2000 network. Some are also inscribed on the World Heritage List under the UNESCO World Heritage Convention. Others are also UNESCO Biosphere Reserves or on part of these Reserves.

Guidance on signs for Ramsar Sites

At its 19th meeting in 1996, the Convention on Wetlands Standing Committee adopted a decision that defines recommended wording for signs at all Ramsar Sites, when translated into the local languages of the sites. Read the guidance here.