February 2, World Wetlands Day
On February 2, the whole world will celebrate World Wetlands Day. It was on February 2, 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar that the Convention on Wetlands, which are of international importance mainly as a habitat for waterfowl, was signed, which became the first agreement on the rational use of natural resources.
Each year, the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention determines the theme of World Wetlands Day. Wetlands are among the most diverse and productive ecosystems. The future of humanity depends a lot on the state of wetlands. These ecosystems provide humanity with fresh water and help replenish groundwater. They are essential for growing rice and fish that feed billions of people, act as a natural barrier to flood and drought protection, protect the coast from rising sea levels, and help combat climate change.
However, the general public is largely unaware of these vital benefits. Very often wetlands are equated with wastelands. Scientists estimate that 64% of the world’s wetlands have disappeared since 1900.
The mission of the Convention is “the conservation and rational use of all wetlands through local and national action and international cooperation to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development throughout the world.”
The “three pillars” of the Convention are the obligations of States Parties:
work towards the wise use of all of their wetlands;
identify suitable wetlands for inclusion in the List of wetlands of international importance (the “Ramsar List”) and ensure their effective management;
organize international cooperation in the field of transboundary wetlands, common wetland systems and common species.
To date, 168 countries have joined the Ramsar Convention, 2180 wetlands worldwide are included in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance.
Belarus became a Party to the Ramsar Convention in September 1999, declaring the Sporovsky nature reserve of republican significance as the first Ramsar territory.
Our country, which has significant wetland resources, plays an important role in their conservation at the European level. Despite the large-scale amelioration, which was carried out on the territory of the republic in the 60s, up to now about 869 thousand hectares of marshes have been preserved in a natural or close to natural state. About 24 billion tons of water currently accumulate in the marshes of Belarus that remain in their natural state, whereas in all the lakes of Belarus there are about 6-7 billion tons of water.
Today, 16 Belarusian wetlands of our country are included in the Ramsar List of wetlands of international importance (“Sporovsky”, “Middle Pripyat”, “Zvanets”, “Olmansky Marshes”, “Osveysky”, “Yelnya”, “Kotra”, “Prostyr”, Berezinsky Biosphere Reserve, “Vygonoschanskoe”, “Morochno”, “Old Zhadin”, “Islands of Duleba – Zaozerie”, “Kozyansky”, “Vydritsa” and the National Park “Pripyatsky”).
It should be noted that our country is actively working with neighboring countries in order to ensure the conservation of transboundary wetlands. The relevant cooperation agreements in this field have been signed with Latvia and Ukraine.
An important indicator of the seriousness of our country in preserving wetlands is also the fact that out of 16 wetlands throughout the world that have transboundary status, two wetlands of the Republic of Belarus are recognized by the Ramsar Secretariat as parts of transboundary wetlands international. values “Prostyr – Pripyat – Stokhod” (Belarus – Ukraine) and “Kotra – Chapkeliai” (Belarus – Lithuania).
In addition, in 2014, agreements were reached with Ukraine on the nomination of another transboundary Ramsar site – “Olmanskie swamps – perebrody” peat massif.
In order to improve the methods and methods of protection of wetlands, legislation in this area is being improved. For example, changes were made to the Law of the Republic of Belarus “On Environmental Protection, according to which for the first time swamps, swamps, which are sources of watercourses, are classified as natural areas subject to special protection and for which a special regime of protection and use is established.
In order to prevent the overgrowing of marshes with shrubs, which leads to the transformation of these ecosystems and the disappearance of the habitats of wetland bird species, works on clearing meadows, lowland marshes, and mineral islands from tree-bushes of vegetation are carried out annually. In particular, such works are carried out on the territory of the “Sporovsky”, “Zvanets”, “Middle Pripyat” reserves.
Perhaps the most famous wetlands of our country are the reserve “Sporovsky” and “Zvanets”. About 40% of the world’s population of the whipping warbler (globally threatened species) live in precisely these two swamps of Belarus.
In 2014, on the basis of our first Ramsar territory, the Sporovsky reserve, the European Championship on manual mowing of lowland swamps was held, which, by decision of the organizing committee of this championship, will now take this reserve annually. This event is aimed at creating favorable conditions for nesting fiddling warbler, and also undoubtedly increases the popularity of this area.
The Olmansky swamp massif has a high water-protective hydro-regulating value for the r. Pripyat Due to the small population and inaccessibility of the swamps, areas with an undisturbed typical composition of plant communities and faunistic complexes could be preserved here, which gives this territory uniqueness and special importance in preserving the original biological and landscape peculiarity of Belarusian Polesye. It is an important site for the concentration of wetland bird species in nesting and migration. The key nesting site of the globally threatened species is the great spotted eagle.
The flood plain of the Pripyat River, or as international experts called “Belarusian Amazonian” dubbed it, is of international importance for the conservation of populations of a number of rare and endangered species in Europe. The greatest significance of this territory is that the following globally endangered and equated species of birds live here constantly and in sufficiently large numbers: the great spotted eagle, the corncrake, the great snipe stops during the spring migration period. More than 1% of the European population of the big bittern, black stork, black tern nests here. More than 1% of the republican population of 27 species of birds inhabit the reserve.
Osveysky natural complex is a place of mass nesting of wetland birds and has a natural binding to the migration flow of their northeastern populations. During the period of seasonal migrations, the site regularly supports more than 20,000 waterfowl individuals.
On the territory of this Ramsar territory “Kotra” 117 species of birds are noted, which makes up 39.3% of all species registered in Belarus.
Undoubtedly, the rest of our wetlands, included in the Ramsar list is not accidental. All of them play an important role in the conservation of waterbirds of Europe.
There are really many achievements in the field of conservation and sustainable use of wetlands in Belarus. And more than once, at international conferences of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Ramsar Convention, the Convention to Combat Desertification and Land Degradation, Belarus was cited as an example of a country with positive experience in solving these problems.