The objective of this designation is the conservation of wetland habitats, especially for waterfowl. Ireland was one of 138 contracting parties to adopt the Convention of wetlands known as the Ramser Convention by 2003 more than 1,310 sites were designated worldwide, covering over 111 million hectares.
Wetlands are selected for the list of wetlands of international importance on account of their significance which is established on the basis of ecological, botanical, zoological, limnological or hydrological criteria. Ireland ratified the Ramser convention in 1985 and by 1996 had designated 21 sites. Ramser Sites have no legal protection as such under Irish legislation, their actual protection derives from other designations of the site such as SPAs or Nature Reserves.
A wetland would be deemed internationally significant if it regularly held at least 20,000 waterfowl, or at least 1% of the population of a species. In terms of habitat a wetland should be considered as internationally important if it is a particularly good example of wetland characteristics of its region. The International Waterfowl and Wetlands Research Bureau and the International Council for Bird Preservation have used a further measure in their Important Bird Areas in Europe Publication (1989). This permits the listing of a site if it holds one of the five most important populations in the region of a European threatened migratory species.
Waterfowl species in Ireland include:
Divers Swans Waders
Grebes Coots Ducks
Cormorants Herons Geese
Wetland habitat types in Ireland include:
Estuaries Intertidal bays Open shore
Lakes Callows Drumlin lakes
Turloughs Bogs Coastal lagoons