The Ramsar Sites In England And Their Significance In Biodiversity Conservation

Morecambe Bay is an important RAMSAR site in England.
Morecambe Bay is an important RAMSAR site in England.

What Are The Ramsar Sites?

Ramsar sites are considered “Wetlands of International Importance”. As a member of the Ramsar Convention, England has designated 71 wetland locations within its borders as Ramsar sites. The complete list of these sites can be found in the chart published below. This article takes a look at how and why sites are selected, the importance of Ramsar sites, and conservation of Ramsar sites.

How and Why Are The Ramsar Sites Selected?

As previously mentioned, in order to designate wetlands of international importance, a country must be a member of the Ramsar Convention. This Convention was created in 1971 in the city of Ramsar, Iran. It is considered an international treaty with the purpose of promoting conservation and sustainable use of ecologically important wetlands.

Before being designated as a Ramsar site, these wetlands must meet the criteria set forth by the Convention. In total, the Convention identifies 9 criterion. The first of these requires that a Ramsar site be a representative, rare, or unique wetland in the appropriate biogeographic region. Criterion 2, 3, and 4 requires the presence of a vulnerable, endangered, or threatened species; the presence of a species that supports biological diversity; and critical support for a species during a specific life cycle or in adverse conditions. Criterion 5 and 6 concern waterbirds: a Ramsar site must host over 20,000 waterbird species or regularly host 1% of the population of one specific waterbird species. Criterion 7 and 8 concern fish: a Ramsar site must protect a significant portion of indigenous fish species and provide an important food source or breeding ground for fish. Criterion 9 says that a wetland can become a Ramsar site if it regularly hosts more than 1% of the population of a specific non-avian species that requires wetlands for survival.

Additionally, the Ramsar Convention outlines measurement steps that ensure each Ramsar site is properly preserved. One of these activities is that each Ramsar Convention member is expected to manage its dedicated sites in order to maintain their important environmental roles and conserve their biodiversity for future generations.

The Importance Of Ramsar Sites In England

Ramsar sites, and wetlands, in general, are important for both maintaining biodiversity and benefiting humans. They are some of the most productive environments in the world, providing many plant and animal species with the tools for survival.

The Ramsar sites in England are no exception to this. By setting these areas aside as protected habitats, the government of England has taken an important step toward plant and animal conservation. Additionally, Ramsar sites provide researchers with largely undisturbed environments that can be studied to further understand delicate ecological relationships. Ramsar sites, as well as other protected sites, require that developers ensure and demonstrate that projects will not have adverse affects on the wetlands.

The Conservation Of Ramsar Sites In England

The government of England ensures that Ramsar sites are conserved by prohibiting any human activity in or around the areas that might disrupt plant or animal species’ lives. In 2010, the Habitats Regulations was implemented in order to further define a strategic standard for the conservation of protected sites. The regulations include conservation objectives for each site and supplementary advice on how to achieve those objectives. This advice helps the public and private enterprises determine: the potential risk an activity proposes to plant and animal species in the Ramsar site, how to restore wildlife populations, and how to perform a habitat regulations assessment to prevent habitat loss and destruction.

The Ramsar Sites In England And Their Significance In Biodiversity Conservation

RankNameArea (km2)Designated
1The Wash622.1230 March 1988
2Humber Estuary379.8828 July 1994
3Morecambe Bay374.054 October 1996
4Severn Estuary247.015 January 1976
5Ribble and Alt Estuaries134.6428 November 1985
6The Dee Estuary131.3117 July 1985
7Foulness (Mid-Essex Coast Phase 5)109.334 October 1996
8South West London Waterbodies82.89 October 2000
9North Norfolk Coast78.875 January 1976
10Duddon Estuary68.0616 March 1998
11Dorset Heathlands67.31 October 1998
12The Swale65.1517 July 1985
13Somerset Levels and Moors63.8826 June 1997
14Chichester and Langstone Harbours58.128 October 1987
15Thames Estuary and Marshes55.895 May 2000
16Solent and Southampton Water54.151 October 1998
17Arun Valley52.916 December 1999
18Mersey Estuary50.3320 December 1995
19Medway Estuary and Marshes46.9715 December 1993
20Broadland46.236 January 1976
21Lea Valley44.89 October 2000
22Blackwater Estuary43.9511 March 1992
23Isles of Scilly40.213 August 2001
24Lindisfarne36.795 January 1976
25Pevensey Levels35.782 February 1999
26Stour and Orwell Estuaries33.2413 July 1994
27Dengie (Mid-Essex Coast Phase 1)31.2724 March 1994
28Colne Estuary (Mid-Essex Coast Phase 2)27.0128 July 1994
29Alde–Ore Estuary25.474 October 1996
30Ouse Washes24.695 January 1976
31Poole Harbour24.3922 July 1999
32Exe Estuary23.4611 March 1992
33Benfleet and Southend Marshes22.5114 February 1994
34Hamford Water21.878 June 1993
35Thanet Coast and Sandwich Bay21.6928 July 1994
36Minsmere-Walberswick20.195 January 1976
37Crouch and Roach Estuaries (Mid-Essex Coast Phase 3)17.3624 March 1995
38The New Forest16.1222 September 1993
39Midland Meres and Mosses (Phase 2)15.882 February 1997
40Nene Washes15.175 March 1993
41Avon Valley13.852 February 1998
42Rutland Water13.64 October 1991
43Portsmouth Harbour12.4928 February 1995
44Teesmouth and Cleveland Coast12.4715 August 1995
45Breydon Water12.0329 March 1996
46Northumbria Coast11.082 February 2000
47Deben Estuary9.7911 March 1996
48Lower Derwent Valley9.1517 July 1985
49Irthinghead Mires7.9217 July 1985
50Chesil Beach and The Fleet7.4817 July 1985
51Abberton Reservoir7.2624 July 1981
52Pagham Harbour6.3730 March 1988
53Midland Meres and Mosses (Phase 1)5.119 May 1994
54Stodmarsh4.8116 December 1993
55Gibraltar Point4.145 March 1993
56Malham Tarn2.8628 October 1993
57Thursley and Ockley Bog2.6514 February 1994
58Upper Nene Valley Gravel Pits2.657 April 2011
59Upper Solway Flats and Marshes2.651 October 1986
60Wicken Fen2.5412 September 1995
61Woodwalton Fen2.0812 September 1995
62Roydon Common1.945 March 1993
63Dersingham Bog1.5812 September 1995
64Esthwaite Water1.377 November 1991
65Leighton Moss1.2928 November 1985
66Redgrave and South Lopham Fens1.2715 February 1991
67Martin Mere1.228 November 1985
68Chippenham Fen1.1211 March 1992
69Rostherne Mere0.824 July 1981
70Walmore Common0.535 December 1991
71Holburn Lake and Moss0.2817 July 1985

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