German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)


Wetland conservation in the context of the Ramsar Convention

The Wadden Sea is a transboundary Ramsar Site (© Simone Wulf)
Salicornia at the Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea National Park.

Wetlands are among the most diverse and the most endangered ecosystems on Earth. Lakes and rivers, bogs and swamps, coral reefs and mangrove forests are not only worth protecting as habitats for rare and endangered animal and plant species, they also provide vital ecosystem services for people. In a healthy state, wetlands provide us with drinking water and food, improve water quality, protect us from natural disasters such as floods and, as long-term carbon sinks, contribute more to global climate change mitigation than any other type of ecosystem.

Wetland Trends and Threats

Four-spotted Chaser dragonfly (© Simone Wulf)
Four-spotted Chaser dragonfly at the water's edge.

Since 1970, 35% of all wetlands in the world have disappeared. This is the grave conclusion of the Global Wetland Outlook, the report on the state of wetlands worldwide. The annual rate of loss of natural wetlands is currently three times as high as the rate of loss of natural forests. Moreover, 81% of  animal and plant species dependent on freshwater wetlands are in decline since 1970. Drivers for the loss of wetlands and their biodiversity include drainage and land conversion, extraction of water and other natural resources, infrastructure development and exposure to nutrients and pollutants, the spread of invasive species, and the impacts of climate change.

Global Wetland Outlook

The Ramsar Convention

Ramsar Site Wetland Complex Lagos de Tarapoto, Colombia(© Simone Wulf)
Cocoi Heron near the river bank.

The Convention on Wetlands (or Ramsar Convention) was adopted as an international agreement on February 2, 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar. World Wetlands Day has been celebrated every year on this date since 1977. The Ramsar Convention focuses on the protection and wise use of wetlands. Moreover, communication and education on the importance of wetlands as well as international cooperation are further key areas. Through thedesignation of "Wetlands of International Importance", also called Ramsar Sites,   the Convention recognizes particularly important wetlands of its Member States. Germany joined the Convention in 1976 and, with the recent designation of the "Rosenheimer Stammbeckenmoore", has listed 35 Ramsar Sites.

Ramsar Convention fact sheet

Ramsar workshops organized by BfN

Healthy peatlands provide many ecosystem services (© Simone Wulf)
Palsa bog in Finland.

BfN has supported the implementation of the Ramsar Convention at national and international level for many years. Among other things, BfN is the National Focal Point for the Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP) of the Convention. Furthermore, BfN has hosted a number of workshops to facilitate exchange and networking among German and international stakeholders under the Ramsar Convention, including, for example, an international workshop on peatland strategies in Europe in 2019.

More on peatland strategies in Europe

Remote sensing for wetland management in Africa

Sentinel-2 satellite image of the Itezhi-Tezhi reservoir in Kafue National Park, Zambia (© Copernicus Sentinel 2019, provided by ESA)
Satellite image of Itezhi-Tezhi Reservoir at low water level.

One of BfN's current areas of action in the context of the Ramsar Convention is the promotion of remote sensing for wetland management in Africa. Satellite data, which can be accessed free of charge, can be used by local managers to classify wetlands, map land use changes, assess threats and trends, and better plan and communicate necessary measures. In a project funded by BfN, a consultation and a capacity development workshop was conducted and a new handbook on remote sensing for wetland management was developed together with African experts.

More about the Handbook: Using satellite images for wetland management in Africa

Last Change: 18/03/2021