A Ramsar site is a wetland site designated to be of international importance under the Ramsar Convention, also known as "The Convention on Wetlands", an intergovernmental environmental treaty established in 1971 by UNESCO, which came into force in 1975. It provides for national action and international cooperation regarding the conservation of wetlands, and wise sustainable use of their resources. Ramsar identifies wetlands of international importance, especially those providing waterfowl habitat.
As of August 2022, there are 2,453 Ramsar sites around the world, protecting 255,792,244 hectares (632,076,400 acres), and 171 national governments are participating.
Ramsar sites are recorded on the List of Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance.
The non-profit organisation Wetlands International provides access to the Ramsar database via the Ramsar Sites Information Service.
Ramsar site criteria
A wetland can be considered internationally important if any of the following nine criteria apply:
- Criterion 1: "it contains a representative, rare, or unique example of a natural or near-natural wetland type found within the appropriate biogeographic region."
- Criterion 2: "it supports vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered species or threatened ecological communities."
- Criterion 3: "it supports populations of plant and/or animal species important for maintaining the biological diversity of a particular biogeographic region."
- Criterion 4: "it supports plant and/or animal species at a critical stage in their life cycles, or provides refuge during adverse conditions."
- Criterion 5: "it regularly supports 20,000 or more waterbirds."
- Criterion 6: "it regularly supports 1% of the individuals in a population of one species or subspecies of waterbird."
- Criterion 7: "it supports a significant proportion of indigenous fish subspecies, species or families, life-history stages, species interactions and/or populations that are representative of wetland benefits and/or values and thereby contributes to global biological diversity."
- Criterion 8: "it is an important source of food for fishes, spawning ground, nursery and/or migration path on which fish stocks, either within the wetland or elsewhere, depend."
- Criterion 9: "it regularly supports 1% of the individuals in a population of one species or subspecies of wetland-dependent non-avian animal species."
The Ramsar Classification System for Wetland Type is a wetland classification developed within the Ramsar Convention intended as a means for fast identification of the main types of wetlands for the purposes of the Convention.
- Fresh water:
- Flowing water:
- Seasonal/intermittent rivers/creeks/streams (N)
- Permanent >8 ha (O)
- Permanent < 8 ha(Tp)
- Seasonal / Intermittent > 8 ha (P)
- Seasonal Intermittent < 8 ha(Ts)
- Marshes on inorganic soils:
- Permanent (herb dominated) (Tp)
- Permanent / Seasonal / Intermittent (shrub dominated)(W)
- Permanent / Seasonal / Intermittent (tree dominated) (Xf)
- Seasonal/intermittent (herb dominated) (Ts)
- Marshes on peat soils:
- Permanent (non-forested)(U)
- Permanent (forested)(Xp)
- Marshes on inorganic or peat soils:
- Marshes on inorganic or peat soils / High altitude (alpine) (Va)
- Marshes on inorganic or peat soils / Tundra (Vt)
- Saline, brackish or alkaline waters:
- Permanent (Q)
- Seasonal/intermittent (R)
- Permanent (Sp)
- Seasonal/intermittent (Ss)
- Fresh, saline, brackish or alkaline waters:
- (1): Aquaculture ponds
- (2): Ponds (farm and stock ponds, small stock tanks, or area less than 8 ha)
- (3): Irrigated land
- (4): Seasonally flooded agricultural land
- (5): Salt exploitation sites
- (6): Water Storage areas/Reservoirs
- (7): Excavations
- (8): Wastewater treatment areas
- (9): Canals and drainage channels or ditches
- (Zk(c)): human-made karst and other subterranean hydrological systems