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The Year for Wetlands - 2021 kicks off on World Wetlands Day in the Amur-Heilong River Basin

02 february 2021
Marking the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, WWF announced 2021 as the Year for Wetlands in the Amur-Heilong River Basin. WWF Russia, WWF China and WWF Mongolia as well as nature reserves, national parks, and public organizations of the ecoregion will unite efforts for wetlands conservation.

50 years ago, on February 2, 1971, the Ramsar Convention for the Protection of Wetlands of International Importance was signed. Currently, 171 states are acting parties to the convention with the total number of 2414 wetlands of international importance. In Russia, 35 territories have this status. However, the work on establishing new Ramsar sites or enlarging the area of ​​existing sites lacks the nationally approved mechanism for this process.

Therefore, WWF Russia’s main task within the Year for Wetlands will be the adoption of the national level procedure for  establishing wetlands of international importance in Russia.

Comments Peter Osipov, Ph.D., director of WWF Russia Amur branch: “Being at the junction of water and land, wetlands have the highest level of biological diversity, approaching in this indicator to tropical forests and seas. It is home to up to 40% of the species that exist on the planet. In the Amur basin, these ecosystems need protection no less than the taiga territories, the habitat of the Amur tiger. Over the past 25 years of WWF Russia's work in the Amur ecoregion, more than 1 million hectares of protected areas have been created, which have taken under protection the Amur wetlands. Wetlands are not only swamps familiar to us, but also small rivers, lakes, marshes, which make up a single organism with the great river. These natural complexes maintain the water balance of the Amur floodplain and are home to many species of fish, birds, amphibians, many of which are included in the Red Lists of various levels. The preservation of such habitats allows maintaining and increasing the number of rare species. So, for example, the number of the Oriental stork population has doubled over the past 20 years mostly due to the strengthening of wetland protection.”
Online press conference on the launch of the Year for Wetlands-2021
Olga Sass / WWF Russia

In the Russian part of the Amur basin, 6 territories have the status of wetlands of international importance. These are Torey Lakes in Zabaikalsky province, Zeya-Bureya Plains and the Khingano-Arkharinskaya Lowland in Amurskaya province, Lake Bolon and Lake Udyl in Khabarovsky province and Lake Khanka in Primorsky province. All these Ramsar Sites are located within the boundaries of protected areas of federal and regional importance.

In the Year for Wetlands, an inventory of the Ramsar sites in the whole Amur-Heilong ecoregion is planned, as well as the assessment of the existing threats, and development of management plans for these territories. The work on research and conservation of rare bird species inhabiting wetlands, primarily cranes and storks, will be continued. 

According to Anna Serdyuk (Barma), Ph.D., senior project coordinator on protected areas at WWF Russia Amur branch: “There are nine main bird migration routes in the world. The wetlands of the Amur-Heilong River Basin are part of 3 Asian flyways at once: the East Asian-Indian, the East Asian-Australasian and the West Pacific. The East Asian-Australasian Flyway (EAAF) is the largest migratory bird route on the planet. It stretches from the breeding sites in the Russian Far East and Alaska southward, through East and Southeast Asia to Australia and New Zealand, and covers 22 countries. EAAF is home to over 50 million migratory waterfowl and semi-aquatic birds. During migration, birds rely on a chain of highly productive wetlands, where they rest, feed and accumulate enough energy for their long journey. The Amur River forms an extensive wetland belt in the heart of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. The floodplains of the Amur and its tributaries are home to about 90% of the breeding population of the Oriental stork in the world, 90% of the White-naped crane and 65% (100% of the continental population) of the Red-crowned crane. These rare species are indicators of the health of the Amur freshwater ecosystems. Therefore, the safety and well-being of the Amur ecoregion wetlands is of global importance. Consequently, international cooperation plays a huge role in the preservation of "winged symbols" and their habitats, and not only within the countries included in the Amur basin, but also along great flyways.”
The Year for Wetlands-2021 launched in the Amur-Heilong River Basin
WWF Russia

Despite the global importance of wetlands in preserving biodiversity and maintaining the stability of the planet's climate, the role of wetlands in social creation is largely underestimated. Many people habitually consider these territories to be of little use and try in every possible way to “conquer” them - to drain, reduce and adapt to economic needs, which inevitably leads to the degradation and destruction of ecosystems. Therefore, the answer to the question - Why are wetlands needed? - in the Year for Wetlands is one of the key ones. And in search of an answer to it, each person will make many exciting discoveries.

On February 2, WWF-Russia opens a special page on the AmurInfoCenter ecoregional web portal  https://amurinfocenter.org/ . An international contest of children paintings “Wetlands for Life” is launched, a photo exhibition “Wetlands of the Amur Basin - Guardians of life” is displayed there.  Zhora the crane, who last year posted on Instagram about the life of cranes in the Amur basin, this year will raise the issues of preserving the habitats of its feathered relatives and neighbors - swamps, rivers and lakes.

WWF’s partner organizations - nature reserves and national parks, public environmental organizations, student nature protection brigades, plan to organize dozens of events in the Year for Wetlands: photo exhibitions and presentations, talks and lectures, game programs, contests, quests and quizzes.

Comments Olga Cheblukova, project coordinator on protected areas at WWF Russia Amur branch: “One of our tasks is to raise awareness about the enormous role of wetlands in maintaining the stability of the entire biosphere in order to change peoples’ attitude towards 'useless' wetlands. For example, many people do not know that bog vegetation effectively absorbs carbon from the atmosphere, which is then “stored” in peat deposits - non-rotten plant residues for millennia, and thus falls out of the process of global carbon turnover. Swamps are a natural accumulator of water. During rains or melting snow, wetlands accumulate a huge amount of water, preventing it from fast flow into rivers, thereby preventing the occurrence of floods or significantly reducing their level. During dry periods, this accumulated water gradually enters the rivers, maintaining water level and preventing rivers from drying out. Moreover, bogs, like a huge natural filter, purify water from pollutants, including heavy metals. And there are a lot of such reliable facts and information that will help change peoples’ attitude towards wetlands. We will try to make wetlands the heritage of society. "
The Year for Wetlands-2021 launched in the Amur-Heilong River Basin
WWF Russia

Particular attention within the Amur basin provinces will be given to involving people in practical activities to protect wetlands from existing threats, to identify violations of environmental legislation, prevent fires, and protect rare species. Indeed, it is the participation of local people that is the key to successful solving environmental problems. One of the components of this work will be the campaign “Amur Ambassadors”, the activities of student nature protection brigades that will study the wetlands, identify threats to these territories and educate the population.

According to Yury Gafarov, project coordinator on protected areas at WWF-Russia Amur branch, the coordinator of the Year for Wetlands in the Amur-Heilong River basin: “The main threats to wetlands are related to human activities. This is the drainage of wetlands due to construction of hydro power infrastructure and for the purpose of agricultural activities that as a result changes the hydrological behavior of rivers. More threats are caused by fires, pollution of rivers, swamps and lakes with household waste, municipal and industrial wastewater and agricultural chemicals, poaching. Given the vast areas of wetlands and their special value, it is important that local people of settlements located near wetlands participate in the preservation of these territories. First of all, we consider the format of work of public inspectors to be important to identify environmental violations and inform state environmental authorities about them. "

All materials of the Year for Wetlands – 2021 are placed on the AmurInfoCenter web portal of the Amur Ecoregion: https://amurinfocenter.org/

For additional information please contact
Project coordinator