“Wetlands for the future” conference: Presentation of the MedWet inventory, assessment and monitoring system

The “Wetlands for the future” conference took place in Banska Bystrica, Slovakia from the 19th to the 21st May 2011.  The participants came from various national and international organizations, from the Carpathian region and beyond. The conference themes focused on the ten years of the State Nature Conservancy of the Slovak Republic (SNC SR), its past, present and future as well as wetland inventory methods, wetland management principles, practical examples from the field and the next steps on these issues in the Carpathian region.

MedWet was officially invited by the Carpathian Wetlands Initiative to share its knowledge on wetland inventories. Dr Eleni Fitoka from the Greek Biotope Wetland Centre (EKBY) represented MedWet in the conference as a qualified expert who has been involved in the MedWet inventory system since its very beginning. She presented the new MedWet inventory, assessment and monitoring system which was improved in its operation and enhanced to include socioeconomic and cultural aspects of wetlands, the Water Framework Directive requirements, inventory based indicators, and the Pan-Mediterranean Wetland Inventory. It integrates the MedWet Web Information System (MedWet/WIS) offering an on-line database that ensures storage of inventorying data on wetlands, a data sharing protocol which supports data exchange and sharing between wetland stakeholders, and the use of Earth Observation techniques  as enhanced means of mapping wetland features. It offers a basis for inventorying programs in the Mediterranean and beyond, from which comparable results can allow for a better understanding of the status and changes in wetlands. She also distributed the electronic publication of the suite of the eight manuals that help users to effectively apply the system.

In addition, Dr Eleni Fitoka presented the GlobWetland II project of the European Space Agency which runs in the context of the MedWet Initiative and its Observatory of Mediterranean Wetlands. On this opportunity the advantages of Earth Observation were highlighted particularly the ability to map and monitor big geographical areas simultaneously as well as the ability to use historical satellite images to assess wetland changes. Finally, the main lessons learnt the last twenty years from the work done under the inventory pillar of the MedWet Initiative were imparted with the participants if the conference. Namely, that any successful inventory action has to follow a participatory approach and involve all relevant bodies and actors (i.e research and academic institutes, authorities and services, NGOs or individual experts) and must be integrated in national programs and supported by the state. Emphasis was given to the fact that the MedWet inventory method should be adopted by the Carpathian Wetland Initiative, at leastat a minimum level, so as to achieve harmonization of any wetland status and trends assessments by the two initiatives.

The conference was organized at the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Ramsar Convention, the 10th anniversary of the State Nature Conservancy of the Slovak Republic (SNC SR) and the International Year of Forests. It was an accompanying event to the 17th International Festival of Environmental Films ENVIROFILM 2011 and was organized by the CWI and the SNC SR with the support of the Slovak Republic Ministry of Environment and Environment Agency and the Daphne Institute of Applied Ecology. As part of the Carpathian Wetlands Initiative work plan, it was supported by the Operational Program Environment targeted towards wetland management provisions, capacity building and environmental awareness of wetlands in Slovakia.

Overall, the conference was successful and further collaboration between the two wetlands initiatives was agreed on the level of wetland inventories, knowledge transfer and joint projects.