Friday, May 30, 2008

We're a Wetlands of International Importance!

The Convention on Wetlands, signed in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971, is an inter-governmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. There are presently 158 Contracting Parties (countries) to the Convention, with 1,722 wetland sites, totaling 160 million hectares, designated for inclusion in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance. That is larger than the combined surface area of France, Germany, Spain and Switzerland! Wetlands are selected for inclusion on the Ramsar list, based upon their international significance in terms of ecology, botany, zoology, limnology, or hydrology.

The National Audubon Society’s Francis Beidler Forest, located in Four Holes Swamp, South Carolina will be the 23rd designated Ramsar site in the United States and the first ever in South Carolina! It is also the first National Audubon Society property in the United States to receive this designation. Beidler Forest will join other elite American Ramsar “listers” as the Everglades National Park, Okefenokee Swamp and Chesapeake Bay.

Beidler Forest qualified for listing on the following criteria:
1. Importance to Biogeographical Region’s Representative, Rare or Unique Wetlands (the 1,800 acres of virgin swamp);
2. Importance to Endangered, Threatened or Otherwise Sensitive Species (16 species of fauna, 3 species of flora); [see image of Dwarf Trillium (Trillium pusillum)]
3. Importance in Maintaining Regional Biological Diversity (over 300 vertebrate species and over 300 plant species);
4. Importance as Habitat for Critical Stage in the Biological Cycles of Plants and Animals (eg. Designated as an Audubon Important Bird Area);
5. Importance to fish for food, spawning ground, nursery and/or migration paths for fish stocks, either within the wetland or elsewhere.

The official name of the treaty, The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as waterfowl habitat, reflects the original emphasis upon the conservation and wise use of wetlands primarily as habitat for water birds. Over the years, however, the Convention has broadened its scope of implementation to cover all aspects of wetland conservation and wise use, recognizing wetlands as ecosystems that are extremely important for biodiversity conservation and for the well being of human communities.

How much press do you think South Carolina will receive when being #1 on a list is unique and of international significance? Nonetheless, thank you to all whose support allows us to preserve the Francis Beidler Forest!

Images by Mark Musselman

1 comment:

Swampy said...

The Post and Courier ran an article on the Ramsar designation for the Francis Beidler Forest on page 3B in Sunday's (6/1/08) edition. Unfortunately, a misconception regarding unaltered swamps was perpetuated.

The article states, "The sanctuary in Four Holes Swamp sits out all by itself, away from a major road, down in a bottom so thick that summer visitors routinely are offered insect repellent." Not true. If it were, the gift shop would surely stock a massive supply and reap the financial benefits from the situation. However, in fact, the flowing water in the swamp is not desirable for the biting insects that many people believe to inhabit such wetlands. Last night, not a soul complained to me as I led the group for three hours through the swamp along the boardwalk as we listened to musicians, poets, and nature during the Piccolo Spoleto "Swamp Serenade" event.