Culture and Wetlands
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Culture and Wetlands

Partners and Activities
Tour du Valat

Tour du Valat research centre was officially established in 1954, and from the very start, it has joined with other partners to fulfill its mission of helping waterbirds and wetlands. Starting in the 1960's, under the guidance of Luc Hoffmann, instigated a number of international meetings to defend the function and values of wetlands. An initial conference in the Camargue, at Saintes-Maries de la Mer, outlined the principles of wetland preservation and was the precursor of the International Ramsar Convention on wetlands, that was signed in 1971. The Tour du Valat has diversified its wetlands research beyond ornithology into other fields: management of wetlands by grazing and ecological requirements of colonial waterbirds. In 1974 the Tour du Valat became a private scientific foundation, directed to the public benefit.

ACTIVITY

The Mediterranean Wetlands Observatory

This Mediterranean Wetlands Observatory (MWO) is a MedWet/Tour du Valat initiative to monitor and assess Mediterranean wetlands. The MWO functions as a group of partners committed to this purpose. Its key message is “sharing knowledge on Mediterranean wetlands so as to ensure their protection”.

Its objectives are the following:

1. Provide timely and quality information on Mediterranean wetlands status and trends.

2. Track threats to Mediterranean wetlands and identify actions to promote their protection, wise use and restoration.

3. Assess the role of Mediterranean wetlands in the Mediterranean context of sustainable development.

The idea of building a Mediterranean Wetlands Observatory was suggested by Tour du Valat at the sixth meeting of MedWet Comittee (MedWet/Com, Algeria) in 2004. The objectives were to ensure and standardise the monitoring of the status and trends of Mediterranean wetlands in the 25 members countries of MedWet. MedWet is working closely with the MWO and supports the achievement of its objectives.

The three inter-related objectives to monitor and assess wetlands are:

- Provide timely and quality information on Mediterranean wetlands status and trends.

- Track threats to Mediterranean wetlands and identify actions to promote their protection, wise use and restoration.

- Assess the role of Mediterranean wetlands in the Mediterranean context of sustainable development.

Five main themes have been defined in 2009-2010 by the MWO Partners. They are:

- Biodiversity components

- Ecosystem health and integrity

- Drivers and pressures of change

- Integration of environment in development

- Ecosystem services

These themes collectively cover both the state of wetlands, the pressures affecting them and the resulting impacts on human well-being, and the responses by societies at large to mitigate them.

Ecosystem services - Cultural Indicator

Wetlands are well known for providing large amounts of services to mankind, such as water provision and purification, climate and flood regulation, coastal protection, recreation and tourism, wetland products (e.g. fish, timber, firewood, fibers…). According to the classification of the MEA, ecosystem services fall into four types: provisioning, regulating, cultural and supporting.

Ultimately, indicators under ecosystem services will help monitor and assess routinely the state and trends of wetland services in the Mediterranean.

Indicator: Tourism and educational role of wetlands

In recent years, a more interdisciplinary approach to environmental protection that would take into account the role of people and human activities within or in the vicinity of wetland sites has emerged and been adopted by the Ramsar Convention. It derived from the need for more realistic, effective and successful environmental management plans and practices. Human activities, and the cultural values associated with them, incorporate traditional knowledge, useful in contemporary conservation, which merits to be preserved. The welfare of local populations and their active participation was acknowledged and considered essential. Reconnecting people (both locals and visitors) and wetlands may lead to sustainable local economies and environmental sensitisation.

Evaluating the role of wetlands and outlining the benefits people receive from them may lead to more effective management practices. Additionally, decision makers that are properly informed will be allowed to take wiser decisions.

The culture indicator monitors the growing or declining numbers of visitors in wetland visitor centres, allowing for an evaluation of the number of users of the specific wetland service, and can be used to oversee and appraise tourism and educational services.

More specifically, centres that will work with MWO and will contribute to the culture indicator development will provide quantitative information (number of visitors on an annual basis, as well as information about past years if available) and quantitative information if possible (derived from questionnaires filled in by visitors on a voluntary basis, upon their departure from the centre). Qualitative information is extremely valuable, as it allows for interpretation about the benefits derived from wetlands (such as their role in tourism and education provided).

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