Interview with Max Finlayson, who is holding the Ramsar Chair in the Wise Use of Wetlands, which is part of a collaboration agreement between the Ramsar Convention (RC) Secretariat, Charles Sturt University (CSU) and IHE. This agreement was signed in 2013 for a period of 5 years and can be renewed.
What is the Ramsar Chair? Who is involved and what are the benefits?
The Ramsar Convention was established 46 year ago and it includes 169 countries as members, yet sadly, all these years later, wetlands are still being lost and degraded. The Ramsar Chair is part of a collaboration agreement between the three bodies mentioned above and was actually set up by IHE Delft’s Anne van Dam. I am currently holding the Ramsar Chair and I am on a zero cost appointment at both IHE Delft and Charles Sturt University.
The Ramsar Convention is a real life application of what IHE Delft teaches and, since there are many students at the Institute from our member countries, it is important that they know about the Convention and can play a part in achieving its goals, on their return home. Wetlands are under unprecedented pressure due to, amongst other factors, population increase leading to increased demand for water and food. The goal of the Ramsar Chair is to encourage wise water use, develop awareness of the Convention, wetland and water issues, and policy and management
The role of IHE Delft is as an ‘observer’ to the Science and Technical Panel (STRP), which means they act as experts who advise the Convention on particular issues, e.g. in relation to the impact of climate change on wetlands.
The benefits of IHE Delft’s involvement are to develop the capacity and influence of IHE Delft with partners and provide opportunities for staff and students. We also hope to provide "personal development" opportunities for IHE staff and students through learning opportunities, mentoring, research and communication, etc.
What are the key activities the Ramsar Chair has undertaken to date?
The most significant is the Wetland Book, a 4500 page encyclopaedic publication on wetlands science, conservation and management, endorsed by the Ramsar Convention. It has global coverage and the nine editors include me, Anne van Dam and Ken Irvine. It is the most comprehensive compilation of wetland knowledge available and will be a valuable education and teaching resource
The second big initiative is the Global Wetland Outlook. The Ramsar Chair has participated in this flagship report on the state of the world's wetlands and their ecosystem services for the RC. It will be finalised in Jan 2018 and launched at the Ramsar COP (Conference of the Parties:169 countries) in late 2018. This is the first time the Report has been written but it will be done periodically in the future, with a view to supporting global efforts to implement obligations and decisions of countries under the RC.
A new initiative is the Caribbean wetland ecosystem services and climate vulnerability project .IHE Delft and Charles Sturt will be subcontracted to provide capacity development to develop policy for dealing with the wetland issues in the Caribbean, in particular the impacts on the provision of ecosystems services from the wetlands, as a result of climate change. It will last 4 years, starting in 2018, and we will be working with 8 countries in the Caribbean.
Having now heard about the SIDS (Small Island Developing States) programme at IHE Delft, which includes some of the same countries, there may be the potential to link it with this initiative in some way. Watch this space.
And what is next for RC?
We are working on a global model for wetland ecosystem services. This is a collaboration with PBL (Netherlands Environment Assessment Agency) and Dutch universities, which will contribute to future projections for wetlands for RC. Despite a lot of effort, we don’t actually know how much wetlands exist in the world and while there is already a global hydrological model, this does not give us sufficient data on wetland ecosystem services. Currently Edwin Hes is working on wetlands modelling and this will help project what will happen to wetlands under different, including extreme conditions caused by climate change.
I am hoping to be a more regular visitor to IHE Delft, as I have been invited to contribute to the specialisation "Applied Aquatic Ecology for Sustainability" in the Environmental Science programme.
I will also be providing PhD supervision to a future PhD fellow researching wetlands and climate change
There will no doubt be further publications from RC in the coming years but at the moment, as you can see, we are already quite busy.