Berezinsky Reserve gains status of Ramsar wetlands

Berezinsky Biosphere Reserve added to List of Wetlands of International Importance — following decision of Ramsar Convention Secretariat

By Darya Kurilova

The reserve has been preparing the necessary documents for filing with the Ramsar Bureau for several years, jointly with Belarus’ Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection and the National Academy of Sciences. Status is granted according to a complex system of criteria.

Berezinsky Reserve has become the ninth site in Belarus boasting this status, joining Sporovsky, Srednyaya (Mid) Pripyat, Zvanets, Omalnskie Bolota (Marshes), Osveysky, Yelnya, Kotra and Prostyr. Information on these and other sites included on the List of Wetlands of International Importance can be found on the database of the Wetlands International — continuously updated.

The main purpose of the Ramsar Convention is to conserve and sustain wetlands. Berezinsky Reserve is a unique natural environment combining exceptional diversity: upland, transitional and low-lying wetlands. These account for 60 percent of the reserve, while an extensive network of large and small rivers also exist, creating the floodplain of the Berezina River, and lakes varying in size and origin. The total area of the wetlands is about 70 percent, while the number and composition of its plants and animals meet international criteria for inclusion on the list of Ramsar sites. Berezinsky Reserve is home to many species threatened with extinction on a global scale. It is among the most important places for nesting and migration of water-birds in Belarus.

The reserve already has the status of State Reserve, Biosphere Reserve, a key ornithological area, and a monitoring site of the National Environment Monitoring System (NEMS). The Ramsar Convention (The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as Waterfowl Habitat), was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in February 1971. It is the first global international treaty devoted entirely to one type of ecosystem. The Ramsar Convention has 160 country signatories, with Belarus joining in 1990.

At present, Berezinsky Biosphere Reserve is negotiating with foreign partners regarding the acquisition of thoroughbred aurochs. At the moment, their population in the reserve is about 35. The first of these large mammals — the heaviest among those living on the European continent — appeared in the reserve in 1974, giving birth to the current herd. Outside animals are required to diversify their gene pool and talks are underway with the Polish centre involved in study of aurochs, regarding receiving animals for this purpose free of charge.

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