Exploring Governance in Canadian Ramsar Sites to Ensure their Sustainability
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The Ramsar Convention came into effect in 1975, in response to global losses of wetland habitats and their ecological services. Canada joined the Convention in 1981. As essential elements of sustainability, this research examined the types of governance and management activities used in the 37 Canadian Ramsar sites. How ecosystem governance could further support environmental sustainability was also explored. Ramsar sites were assessed using sustainability indicators, looking at the Ramsar Convention 14 priority areas of focus such as presence of co-management structures, management plans, and monitoring programs under the three commitment criteria (wise use, management, cooperation). The results showed a large variation in terms of management plans, governance structures and reporting procedures with some sites, such as Old Crow Flats, having high sustainability scores while others, such as Southern James Bay, with low scores. Reasons for variation related to the lack of updated management plans and inadequate monitoring and reporting programs. Sustainability science provides linkages between ecological and social systems, underpinned by participatory and collaborative governance structures. Canadian Ramsar sites provide a living example of how social-ecological characteristics should be integrated to ensure sustainability.