Wetlands: their relevance in the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018

Cultural heritage shapes our identities and everyday lives. It has a universal value for us as individuals, communities and societies, and it is important to preserve and pass this heritage on to future generations.



For this reason, Europe will celebrate, throughout 2018, its diverse cultural heritage at national, regional and local levels. The aim of the European Year of Cultural Heritage, under the theme “Our heritage: where the past meets the future,’’ is to encourage more people to discover and engage with Europe’s cultural heritage, and to reinforce a sense of belonging to a common European space.


Everyone is invited to join the thousands of activities taking place across Europe to involve people more closely with their cultural heritage. Find events in your country here.


Venice and its Lagoon (Italy). Photo credit: © OUR PLACE World Heritage Collection / Geoff Mason


Wetlands: a wealth of a cultural heritage

The great natural richness of Europe’s wetlands also provides a wealth of cultural and archaeological heritage. Most of these ecosystems are listed as both Ramsar Sites and World Heritage sites (see the joint UNESCO-Ramsar sites list here) or they are listed with cultural World Heritage within their boundaries. Among these sites: Butrint (Ramsar Site with cultural World Heritage inside, Albania), Plitvice (a natural World Heritage site, Croatia), the Danube Delta (Ramsar listed and a World Heritage in Romania), and the Ohrid lake region (not Ramsar listed) with its cultural and historical aspect, and its natural environment is a mixed World Heritage site (on the side of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), etc.


Natural and Cultural Heritage of the Ohrid region (the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia). Photo credit: © Very Nice Travel


Since antiquity, many civilizations have settled in and around wetlands, maintaining and evolving a very strong cultural heritage. They turned these ecosystems into cultural landscapes, through which natural and human elements are combined in unique harmony. These landscapes bear cultural imprints of a succession of civilizations throughout history. These many years of human-nature interaction have transformed them into areas where precious cultural and historical heritage should be preserved and enhanced.


Butrint is a Ramsar Site with cultural World Heritage inside in Albania. Photo credit: © UNESCO


So the cultural wealth of wetlands worldwide takes many forms, from human-made physical structures and artefacts, palaeontological records in sediments and peat, and traditional water and land-use management practices, to places of religious significance to indigenous and local communities and the almost intangible ‘sense of place’ felt by many for these wild and often mysterious places and their wildlife (from the book The Heritage Management of Wetlands in Europe).


The MedWet Culture Network

MedWet has long been an avid supporter of the role of cultural aspects in the management plans of wetlands. The incorporation of wetland cultural aspects in the work of the Ramsar Convention has been a benchmark showcasing the increased interest in this field (see the Ramsar Culture Network page).

MedWet signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2015 with the Mediterranean Institute for Nature and Anthropos (MedIna), which has 15 years of experience in the promotion of integrated approaches of nature and culture, to launch the MedWet Culture Network. The network aims to promote the connection between the cultural and natural heritage of Mediterranean wetlands, contributing both to their conservation and wise use and to safeguarding the tangible and intangible benefits these ecosystems can provide to people and nature.

Visit the website of the MedWet Culture Network here.


More information

Website of the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018

The new report “Ramsar and World Heritage Conventions: Converging towards success”

New e-publication “Gastronomic Heritage in Mediterranean wetlands – healthy wetlands, healthy eating”.

Life exists because of water and a great part of our modern society is once again becoming aware of the cultural importance of wetlands. This publication aims to promote the culinary heritage of Mediterranean wetlands and the connection between healthy wetlands and healthy eating.