Treaty offers solid ground for wetland protection

12 July 2021

A 50-year-old treaty could hold the key to better protecting our wetland ecosystems, while offering scientists a "how-to guide" for turning their research into action, according to an expert from The Australian National University (ANU).

Professor Jamie Pittock from the ANU Fenner School of Environment and Society says the world's oldest conservation treaty, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, deserves a second look by those researching and advocating for better protections.

"While wetland ecosystems are among the most biodiverse, they are also among the most impacted by human exploitation," Professor Pittock said.

"The 50th anniversary of the Ramsar Convention is an opportunity for us to ask what else we can do to protect them."

In a new paper, Professor Pittock challenges scientists to do more to turn their findings into practical conservation measures, and apply pressure to those in power.

"To address the global loss of biodiversity, we scientists need to do more than document the problems and complain; we also need to take opportunities offered in this treaty and elsewhere to implement solutions," Professor Pittock said.

The Ramsar Convention has 171 member nations and has flagged more than 2,000 wetlands of international importance, covering 255 million hectares.

Australia currently has 66 Wetlands of International Importance listed under the convention, covering over 8 million hectares, an area greater than Scotland or Tasmania.

According to Professor Pittock, some of these sites contain springs, peat swamps, lakes and mangroves that are especially important for threatened flora and fauna.

"This convention has particular provisions that allow scientists and environmental organisations to literally translate best practice science into conservation laws and protection for particular wetland sites," he said.

Professor Pittock's findings have been published in Conservation Biology.