Mediterranean Wetland Monitoring

This report was the first one of the Mediterranean Wetlands Observatory (MWO), created in 2008 under the framework of the MedWet Intiative in order to monitor and assess the status and trends of Mediterranean wetlands and to increase knowledge on their various benefits. The report presents the results of a three year analysis of the status and trends of wetlands in the Mediterranean and the pressures they face.


Prior to developing a regional wetlands Observatory, a preliminary step is to assess the monitoring situation, needs and expectations from countries representatives and other targeted users. This document includes questionnaires, results and analysis of the survey conducted between 2009 and 2011 among 16 Mediterranean countries.


Bringing together the experience of wetland scientists and managers from different Mediterranean countries, this work aims to provide guidance for designing programmes which monitor ecological change in wetlands in the Mediterranean. It describes the steps related to planning a monitoring programme and includes detailed guidelines for the selection of appropriate indicators to monitor specific issues.
The first volume starts out with an overview of the types of change observed in wetlands and the causes that drive change in the Mediterraenan. A method for developing a monitoring programmes, recommended by the Ramsar Convention on wetlands, is detailed subsequently, with reference to practical examples. The process of selecting indicators as well as information on the relevant tools for monitoring these indicators is then presented. Volume 1 is available online in PDF form (11,9 MB) in English and French. The second volume contains a bibliography on monitoring as well as an choice and techniques relevant to specific indicators. The last section presents five case studies from different countries in the Mediterranean providing insights on how monitoring programme may be implemented on the ground. Volume 2 is available online in PDF form (3,54 MB)
Reference: Tomas Vives P (ed) (1996) Monitoring Mediterranean Wetlands: A methodological guide, MedWet Publication Wetlands International, Slimbridge UK and ICN, Lisbon

Download the book in English:

 Volume 1 : , 

Volume 2  :

Download the book in French:

Volume 1 :,

 Volume 2:

This document details the method, steps, monitoring and evaluation framework and governance adopted to conceive and operate the Mediterranean wetlands Observatory.

ENG : 

This study was carried out based on a method developed by the GlobWetland-II project, which was launched in 2010 by the European Space Agency (ESA) in order to set up a Global Wetlands Observing System, in partnership with the Ramsar secretariat and its Scientific and Technical Review Panel.
214 maps of coastal wetlands in 22 Mediterranean countries were established using satellite images for the reference years of 1975, 1990, and 2005. Several indicators were then calculated based on these maps, which provide information on trends in the surface area of the different habitats in these wetlands.

The lack of a monitoring system for critical environmental parameters in Prespa is an obstacle to the effective protection of the area, the management of its natural resources in the three countries, both individually and at a transboundary level. Without an exact and consistent recording of the actual conditions throughout the three sides of the park, including their development over time, it is not possible for decisions to be taken or effective activities to be planned for the management and development of the area. The development of a transboundary environmental monitoring system in 2007-11 aimed at bridging the gap :
Expert study 
 Annexes :

The Ramsar Advisory Mission (RAM) is a technical assistance mechanism through which a Contracting Party may request expert advice about how to respond to threats to the ecological character of a Ramsar Site and associated wetland issues.
This Policy Brief is produced by the Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP), with assistance of the Ramsar Secretariat. It seeks to assist Contracting Parties to the Convention and, more specifically, decision makers in Ramsar Administrative Authorities and National Focal Points in further understanding the RAM concept, the value of RAMs, as well as lessons learned on their effective application. A Briefing Note on RAMs has also been produced to help Ramsar Site managers understand the use of the RAM process and to highlight selected case studies.

 FRA :

A recent paper assesses how the Ramsar convention list of Wetlands of International importance could be enhanced thanks to data from the International Waterbird Census (IWC), a monitoring scheme launched almost 50 years ago. (or ask a copy to perennou [at]


There is a growing awareness that data obtained from Earth Observation (EO) has the potential to provide the information needed for accurate wetland inventory, assessment and monitoring, and for updating a number of data fields in the Ramsar Sites Information Sheets (RIS). The latter includes: the physical features of the wetland, the presence and dominance of particular wetland types and factors affecting the ecological character of the wetland.

As with all current EO-based approaches, the identification of the location, extent and characteristics of any wetland may be limited by the availability of the specific data, including those related to the recognised limitations of optical imagery such as Landsat in cloud-covered tropical regions. Limitations to the use of EO for routinely deriving wetland information have included the cost of the technology, the technical capacity needed to use the data, the unsuitability of the available data for some basic applications (in particular in terms of the spatial and or temporal resolution of the data), the lack of clear, robust and efficient user-oriented methods, the absence of guidelines for using the technology, and a lack of case studies that are suitable for demonstrating how the technology can be applied in an operational manner. Other commonly reported limitations to the scaling-up and operational use of EO in wetland inventory, assessment and monitoring have included: restrictive data access policies; difficulties in discovering and accessing relevant datasets; a lack of standardisation in data analysis and applications; a lack of “fit for purpose” products; a frequency of observations insufficient to track wetlands changes at appropriate scales; the need for continuity of observations in the long-term; and insufficient training programmes for building EO capacities in the countries.

Although mapping of land cover and land uses are one of the most common uses of EO data, there are still challenges in assessing the current status and changes in wetlands over time. Monitoring historical trends and changing patterns of wetlands are complicated by the lack of medium to high-resolution data, in particular prior to 2000. While global thematic products are increasingly being made available, it should be noted that global datasets may not be able to provide the same high level of accuracy as a local scale map derived through ground surveys and the use of finer resolution (aerial, drones) geospatial data. A global area mapping exercise using consistent data and methods generally necessitates a trade-off in terms of local scale accuracy.

The advantages and limitations of EO approaches to the inventory, assessment and monitoring of wetlands in different environments is outlined through a series of case studies that address the following: i) tools and workflows, ii) global thematic datasets and iii) national scale replicable approaches available to the wetland community.

The case studies are presented as illustrative examples of the application of EO, but given a wide variance in local conditions and information needs they do not provide technical guidance for the specific application of any single approach. Such guidance is available through the agencies and organisations that are mentioned in the case studies, and through the specific references. This in itself reinforces the benefits that can accrue through a concerted and ongoing investment in local capacity and capability to apply EO in response to specific management needs. As global data sets become more readily available, the advantages of using EO for wetland inventory, assessment and monitoring are increasingly being realised, as shown through the case studies that have been presented, and it is anticipated that the usefulness of such approaches for reporting locally, nationally and internationally on the status and trends in wetlands will improve rapidly, including for reporting on wetland extent under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

See Ramsar Technical Report n° 10 on : 


Keep up to date on our events and news by subscribing to our mailing list below.

MAW©2021. All rights reserved. Powered by webdesign