Photo: Morten Ekker, Stabbursnes Ramsar site
Norway was the Ramsar Convention’s third Contracting Party, and Åkersvika nature reserve was included as the first Norwegian site on the Ramsar list in 1974. Norway presently has 63 sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance, with a surface area of 887,903 hectares. Most of these are located on the mainland, while nine are located in the high arctic on Svalbard, archipelago.
All designated Ramsar sites are protected by law before designation. The administrative authority of the Ramsar Convention is the Norwegian Environment Agency (NEA), however the county governors conducts the day to day management of the Ramsar sites.
Norway has a wide variety of wetland types. The coastal line is more than 71 000 km long and includes fiords and islands, which naturally results in that many of the Ramsar sites are coastal. The Ramsar sites include nature types such as islands and archipelagos, tidal flats, bird cliffs, fiords, inland lakes, mires, river deltas, inland deltas.
Ramsar sites in Norway
Many of the Norwegian Ramsar sites were designated due to their importance as habitat for birds for nesting, staging and feeding, however, ecosystem services such as water purification and carbon sequestration have also been part of the motivation for designation in several sites. Following are some important wetland types and examples of designated Ramsar sites within them:
Inland deltas are important for migrating birds and provide important ecosystem services such as sediment trapping and nutrient fixation. The largest inland delta in Norway is Nordre Øyeren in southern Norway. The site includes low islands and land giving way to Lake Øyeren. The site is an important area for resting migratory waterbirds and also holds the greatest diversity of fish species in Norwegian freshwaters. Another wetland system including inland deltas is Innherred Freshwater System in the central part of Norway. The site is important during spring and autumn migration and for flood mitigation.
Ramsar sites in coastal areas in Norway include fiords, tidal areas, bird cliffs among others. In 2013 Norway designated several Ramsar sites with bird cliffs. Bird cliffs are found in coastal areas in the North Atlantic and Arctic. The sites have a steep topography providing the necessary protection for nesting for pelagic sea birds, often close to the birds’ feeding grounds. The birds foraging in the ocean bring nutrients to the bird cliffs and surrounding area by the spreading of guano, which provides nutrient-rich growing conditions generating the diverse vegetation on the island. Large colonies of nationally endangered and vulnerable bird species such as Atlantic Puffin Fratercula arctica, Black-legged Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla, Common Tern Sterna hirundo and Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle breed in the sites. Examples on Ramsar sites with bird cliffs are Anda, Lovunda/Lundeura and Runde.
Another important wetland type in Norway is mire, often consisting of a mixture of wetter and dryer areas making the sites valuable for water birds like ducks and waders. The mires act as important water reservoirs and offer flood protection during periods of snow melt and heavy precipitation. They may also provide drinking water and act as carbon reservoir. Examples of Ramsar sites containing mires are Kvisleflået, Atnsjømyrene, Fokstumyra, Hedmarksvidda wetland system.
For more information about Norwegian wetlands on the Ramsar list
CEPA work in Norway
Norway developeda CEPA Action Plan in 2011. The objective of the plan was to contribute to the strengthening of the communication, education, participation and awareness (CEPA) related to wetlands and the Ramsar Convention in Norway. The plan comprises ten targets that in different ways are contributing to increased awareness of the value of wetlands.
Across the country are 15 initiatives that may fall into the wetland information centers category. The centers exhibit great variations, when it comes to size, capacity, infrastructure and organization. All centers are situated in close proximity to wetlands, most of them close to Ramsar sites. The centers are aimed at a variety of target groups, like tourist, school children, local population and hikers. In 2012 five wetland information centers were authorized for a five year period, and more initiatives are relevant for authorization in the coming years.
Ramsar organization in Norway
- The administrative authority: the Norwegian Environment Authority
- National focal point and STRP focal point: Jan-Petter Huberth Hansen
- CEPA governmental focal point: Maja Stade Aarønæs