Conservation of Mediterranean Basin island wetlands

 Conservation of Mediterranean Basin island wetlands: how a national project led to a Ramsar Resolution (XII.14)


Wetlands: Islands within islands

The Mediterranean Sea is known for having some of the largest island groups in the world while in particular wetlands on these islands constitute one of the most diverse and important ecosystems. These ecosystems provide important services to local populations, they are necessary stopovers for millions of migratory birds, including refuge for wintering species while they are home for many endemic species. Additionally, wetlands are indicators of the sufficiency and condition of water in the islands, and they are unique sustainable development assets. They are oases of life!

The Mediterranean islands are also leading destinations of the tourist industry as they attract more and more visitors for bird-watching and other nature-based activities.

kalloni_saline_lesvoskaloust_paragamian_wwf_greeceKALLONI SALINE, LESVOS. © Kaloust Paragamian, WWF Greece

Unfortunately, insufficient awareness about the fragile conditions of these ecosystems and the impacts of climate change are at the roots of many threats affecting them. In addition, as generally they are not extended in size, they are vulnerable and greatly threatened by unwise human activities.


WWF-Greece action

In response to this situation and in order to conserve the fragile Mediterranean island wetlands, WWF Greece has taken action to bring to light the importance of these ecosystems in order to raise awareness regarding their value and to promote their effective protection. From 2004 to 2013, the project ‘’Conservation of the Island Wetlands of Greece’’ resulted in the identification of a total of 823 wetlands larger than 0.1ha on 77 islands. Of these, 602 are natural wetlands and 221 are artificial (mainly dam lakes and reservoirs). The project also generated conservation actions, awareness and efforts for implementing restoration of specific wetlands. For more information, refer to the Layman’s report.


In order to unify the existing databases and provide free access of the inventory results to the competent authorities, stakeholders and citizens, WWF Greece created the web portal “Ygrotopio”.


The next gap addressed by WWF Greece was institutional: the majority of these wetlands were not protected under any legal framework. The threat of destruction and disappearance overnight from the map, due to human activities such as drainage and building, was pressing. In 2011, WWF Greece contributed to the formulation of the Biodiversity Law 3937/2011, which included specific clauses for the conservation of island wetlands. In June 2012, a special Presidential Decree specified the measures set by the Biodiversity Law and granted strict legal protection to 380 natural wetlands on 59 islands, all of which had been monitored and recorded by WWF Greece.

malia_marsh_cretethanos_giannakakis_wwf_greeceMALIA MARSH, CRETE.  ©Thanos Giannakakis, WWF Greece


At the 12th Conference of the Parties to the Ramsar Convention held in Uruguay in June 2015, a draft resolution for the “Conservation of Mediterranean Basin island wetlands” was formally submitted by the Greece.

MedWet supported this initiative since the International Symposium on Water and Wetlands in the Mediterranean (Agadir, 6 to 8 February 2012). A close collaboration took place since 2014 for the improvement of the text of the Draft Resolution and to organize supportive events during the COP12. A successful side event on the “Conservation of Mediterranean island wetlands” was co-organized by Greece, MedWet and WWF Greece. Furthermore MedWet helped to co-organized a technical round table at the MedWet’s Agora during the Ramsar COP12 for the implementation of the Resolution.

Finally the draft was unanimously adopted as Ramsar Resolution XII.14 (See the Resolution here).

Delmar Blasco, the MedWet Coordinator, has said: “Progress has been made for Mediterranean wetlands. The Ramsar Conference of the Parties, meeting in Punta del Este, Uruguay, has adopted a Resolution inviting countries to identify and protect, as a matter of urgency, wetlands in the Mediterranean islands. Hundreds, if not thousands, of island wetlands play a significant role for humans and nature, but they are not being adequately identified and protected. With this Resolution, we can work with governments and civil society organizations to safeguard those very valuable ecosystems for the benefit of islanders and biodiversity in our region.


Starting to implement the Resolution

After the decisive decision of MAVA Foundation to support the implementation of the Ramsar Resolution XII.14, the replication of the Greek island wetland project to the rest of the Mediterranean islands was a natural consequence. During the workshop that was held by the MAVA Foundation in Tour du Valat (6-8 October 2016), it was decided that four international organisations (WWF Greece, Tour du Valat, Conservatoire du Littoral and MedWet) would contribute to shape a project proposal under the coordination of WWF Greece. However, as national inventories and local policy actions are about to take place, a network of local/national partners is also under development. In detail:

In Cyprus, the first phase of the project (i.e. the inventory) has already been completed while in the second phase Terra Cypria will work on promoting some legal frameworks for the protection of the Cypriot wetlands. More information can be found in the portal for the Cypriot wetlands.

In Turkey, the inventory and the policy action will be implemented by WWF Turkey and in Malta, Nature Trust Malta, a NGO affiliated to WWF has already shown strong interest. In Croatia, Association Hyla will take over the project while in France and in Italy Conservatoire du Littoral will coordinate local Institutes and Universities for the implementation of the project. In Spain and Tunisia, part of the project is funded WWF International and the implementers are WWF Spain and WWF-North Africa office.

The first training meeting will be held in November 2016 in Crete, Greece with participants from Croatia, Spain, Tunisia and France while the rest of the countries will follow.

The role of the Mediterranean Wetland Observatory (MWO) is very significant as it can bring together all national partners, prepare a synthesis of the outcomes resulted from national inventories and host a common island wetlands database.

Apart from actions that will be implemented by the national partners (inventories, advocacy for protection under the national legal frameworks, new Ramsar Sites designations, etc.), MedWet will ensure that policy actions will also be promoted in a Mediterranean scale. MedWet is a key player that can bring together both the national governments and the local NGOs/Institutes/Universities, thus promoting the protection of the Mediterranean island wetlands in a regional scale.

Besides, in the Framework for Action 2016-2030, action 8.6 describes decisively MedWet’s vision: “In line with Ramsar Resolution XII.14 on Conservation of Mediterranean Basin island wetlands, develop an initiative for the effective implementation of this Resolution with the contribution of interested partners”.

Source: WWF Greece


More information

See the website on Conservation of island wetlands project in Greece:



WWF Greece

Tel: +30 210 3314893 / +30 2810 328019

Thanos Giannakakis