Global and regional governmental policy and treaties as tools towards the mitigation of the effect of climate change on waterbirds


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Climate change will affect the breeding, staging and wintering areas of waterbirds. This may create a problem for the legal protection of important waterbird sites under the present international conventions. We analyse present obligations within a number of international conventions and conservation strategies, and formulate ways to mitigate for the effects of climate change by establishing site conservation within a framework of ecological networks and the overall flyway of species of waterbirds.

The specialist terms used in this paper are defined in the Appendix.

Almost all existing conventions and treaties have been developed and formulated at a time when the overriding problem was perceived to be habitat destruction by humans. Only later did climate change rise up the political agenda. Conventions and treaties have addressed the more ‘traditional’ ways of habitat destruction (intensification of agriculture, physical planning including developments, drainage, deforestation) and the non-sustainable use by populations. These problems remain and climate change may speed up these processes or make them irreversible in many locations. UNEP/CMS (2002) has identified that climate change is likely to affect migratory species, including waterbirds, in ways that include:

  • 1changing physiological responses, e.g. fecundity;
  • 2altering the timing of critical life stages;
  • 3changing the physical location, extent and condition of breeding, staging and wintering areas;
  • 4altering atmospheric and oceanic circulation with their attendant effects on, for example, food resources.

The obligations and potential actions of existing conventions and treaties, and also of non-binding instruments such as the flyway strategies, have not been formulated in order to address these effects. Indeed, it would be almost impossible to modify them to include obligations that would deal directly with physiological responses and changing atmospheric and oceanic circulations – in such instances indirect measures via obligations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol are more relevant.

In this paper we discuss how present or adapted global wildlife and environmental policies, conventions and treaties could deal with two effects of climate change of great conservation importance for waterbirds. We touch upon how they could be used in the context of adaptive changes in the length and timing of migration as well as other aspects of altered waterbird phenology, and explore how they could deal with changes in the geographical location, extent and condition of waterbird breeding, staging and wintering areas. Changes in average temperature, wind and precipitation patterns have already led to declines in the large numbers of waterbirds supported by the prairie pothole wetlands in North America (Sorensen et al. 2001) and to a change in the distributions of waders overwintering in the UK (Rehfisch & Crick 2003, Rehfisch et al. 2004); other areas may become more favourable with climate change. Although mention is made of the Arctic tundra breeding grounds of waterbirds, the paper predominantly focuses upon the coastal habitats of waterbirds.


The key policies and treaties considered in this paper that enable site-based conservation measures to be taken are listed in Table 1 (see also Boere & Rubec 2002, Boere 2003). Globally, the three main biodiversity-related conventions, the Ramsar Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the (Bonn) Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), have the greatest influence on the selection of sites for biodiversity conservation. Through ratification of the conventions, contracting parties (governments) agree in principle to apply the listed obligations and in some cases to transpose them into national legislation. In so doing they agree to protect the habitats as specified in the convention texts. The Ramsar Convention, which applies to all coastal sites and has 138 contracting parties, specifies most clearly what must be done to designate a site, and the circumstances under which revision of site boundaries can be made. In addition to these three conventions, the UNESCO Man and Biosphere programme has encouraged many states to designate sites, complete with buffer zones, through a peer-reviewed process. Many of these sites are wetlands, and 74 are jointly designated under the Ramsar Convention.

Table 1.  Major global and regional policies and treaties.
  • *

    Together the SPA and SAC networks form the Natura 2000 network, a legally binding protected areas network for EU states (including those in the process of accession). Non-compliance may lead to formal cases at the European Court.

Major global policies and treatiesKey site-based mechanism
 Ramsar ConventionRamsar Site designation, through Article 2.4
 UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)UN Framework Convention, which through Article 8 guides in situ conservation of species
 UN (Bonn) Convention on the Conservation of UNEP Framework Convention to enable such agreements as the
 Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS)African Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA)
 UNESCO Man and Biosphere Programme (MAB)Biosphere Reserves, designated by individual states voluntarily often including protected areas designated under other international instruments
 UNESCO World Heritage ConventionWorld Heritage Site designation, some of which are important for biodiversity
 BirdLife's Global Important Bird Area ProgrammeInventory of the world's most important bird areas. Not a legally binding instrument but often seen as a ‘shadow list’ for more formal designation of sites under national or international legislation
Major regional policies and treatiesKey site-based mechanism
 Africa Eurasia Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA)Flexible general flyway agreement under the CMS
 EU Bird DirectiveSpecial Protection Area (SPA)* system for birds described in Annexes
 Habitat Directive Special Areas for Conservation (SAC)* for flora, fauna and habitats as descibed in Annexes
 Council of Europe Network of Protected AreasIncludes the European Network of Biogenetic Reserves and the Pan- European Ecological Network implemented through national legislation
 Algeria Convention (Africa Convention on Framework Convention, implemented through national legislation.
 Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources)Has led to the establishment of many National Parks in African countries. No longer very active
 Bern Convention (Convention on the Conservation of  European Wildlife and Natural Habitats)Framework Convention, implemented through national legislation leading to the Network of Areas of Special Conservation Interest (ASCI) (‘Emerald’ Network); modelled according to Natura 2000 criteria, but not legally binding
 Oslo and Paris Convention for the Protection of the  Marine Environment of the North-east Atlantic (OSPAR)Not specifically aimed at site protection but has a special Protocol on habitat protection and provisions to mitigate for changes in habitat character
 North American Wetlands Conservation Act Important instrument for USA, Canada and Mexico to protect, restore or develop wetlands habitat; the act is not aimed at designating sites with a protected status.
 Western Hemisphere Convention: Convention on  Nature Protection and Wildlife Preservation in the  Western HemisphereAll American Convention for the protection of species and habitats, and for requesting the designation of protected sites such as national parks, national reserves, wilderness reserves and national monuments. Not implemented
 Helsinki Convention on the Protection of the  Marine Environment (HELCOM)Framework Convention recommends Baltic Sea Protected Areas
 Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Not legally binding, flexible site network for internationally
 Network (WHSRN)important sites for migratory waders throughout North and South America
 Asia Pacific Migratory waterbird Conservation StrategyNot legally binding, flexible site networks for various waterbird groups
 Neo-tropical Migratory Bird Conservation ActAdopted by USA Government in 2000, focus on supporting the conservation of migratory birds and their habitat in the Western Hemisphere. No specific site designation arrangements

In a European context, the most important protection measures are those that transpose European law directly into national legislation. Predominant among these are the Birds and Habitats Directives that lead to the creation of Special Protection Areas (SPAs) and Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), respectively, that form the Natura 2000 family of sites. In addition to this, the Bern Convention has developed the Emerald network based on Natura 2000 but without its legal implications for European Union (EU) member states. This programme is particularly effective for the Bern Convention Parties that do not belong to the EU.


Global conventions

A review of Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) stated that they are not effectively addressing the impact of climate change on migratory waterbirds (UNEP 2001b). None of the listed conventions, treaties or agreements has been amended formally to address climate change, but there are many resolutions, work plans and technical background documents in development that attempt formally to link work outlined in strategic plans to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Key tools include the Joint Work Plan between CBD and Ramsar, and the Ramsar Strategic Plan 2003–2009 that contains new action-orientated statements that place increased priority on:

  • 1managing wetlands adaptively in response to the impacts of global climate change and sea-level rise;
  • 2strengthening partnerships with other conventions and agencies;
  • 3developing methodologies for the assessment of the vulnerability of wetlands to change in ecological character, including their vulnerability to the impacts of climate change, sea-level rise, invasion by alien species and agricultural practices;
  • 4undertaking assessments of the vulnerability of wetlands to change in ecological character, including their vulnerability to the impacts of climate change and sea-level rise;
  • 5ensuring that wetland policies are fully integrated into other strategic or planning processes and documents, in particular those related to biodiversity, desertification, climate change, agriculture, trade in endangered species, water resource management, integrated coastal zone management and environmental planning in general, including national strategies for sustainable development called for by the World Summit on Sustainable Development, September 2003, South Africa;
  • 6promoting the management of wetlands in relation to adaptive management and mitigation of the impacts of climate change, particularly in the context of land use, land-use change and rising sea-levels, forestry, peatlands and agriculture, in collaboration with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

In addition, Resolution VIII.3 on Climate change and wetlands: impacts, adaptation, and mitigation, calls for contracting parties fully to incorporate climate change considerations into the conservation and wise use of wetlands, and into national climate change policy. CBD has also undertaken its own extensive reviews of the likely impacts of climate change and has recommended that its Secretariat develops relevant rapid assessment methods for the maintenance of the biodiversity of inland water and coastal ecosystems, including, in particular, guidelines for ecosystem evaluation and assessment. CMS is a framework convention with a very effective agreements development mechanism, e.g. the Africa Eurasian Migratory Waterbird (AEWA) Agreement, an important tool for waterbird conservation. Neither CBD nor CMS has as yet been adapted for climate change specifically, although recently discussions have started on how CMS objectives are influenced by the effects of climate change (UNEP/CMS 2002).

Regional policies and treaties

Again, none of the policies reviewed (Table 1) specifically addresses climate change. However, an influential non-statutory exception is the Integrated Coastal Zone Management, endorsed by the EU Fifth Environment Action Plan, from which arises a ‘Coastal Code’ approved by the Council of Europe in 1999 (see EUCC 1997–1999). This calls for climate change issues to be built into all aspects of coastal planning.

One of the most effective regional co-operation mechanisms relevant to coastal birds is the Arctic Council's Programme for the Conservation of Arctic Fauna and Flora (CAFF). The Zöckler and Lysenko (2000) contribution to CAFF, an assessment of the impacts of climate change on Arctic breeding birds, is influential and is helping to quantify likely territorial change at the flyway level. Regional treaties such as the Oslo and Paris Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-east Atlantic (OSPAR) and the Western Hemisphere Convention do not have specific tools to address global change, but are flexible in their formulations in relation to habitat and site protection.


In most cases, protected areas provide a means of implementing obligations under conventions. For instance, under national legislation, Annex 1 and 2 species of the CMS (UNEP/CMS) can be protected by establishing protected areas where they occur. If as a consequence of climate change, for example, a protected species were to move from a protected to an unprotected site, the species would remain protected under national legislation and the obligation to protect the species would remain with the relevant party.

Only the Ramsar Convention and the EU Natura 2000 mechanisms provide specific legal mechanisms that appear at first sight to reduce the flexibility of response to climate change. This is a consequence of their establishing legally binding site boundaries for protected areas as part of the obligations of the treaties themselves, but not as a consequence of implementing certain obligations into national legislation. However, under Article 2.5, the Ramsar Convention in requiring contracting parties to designate wetlands for the Ramsar list provides a mechanism that enables site boundaries to be reviewed and changes due to ‘urgent national interests’ to be implemented. Although this may not be directly relevant to the likely impacts of climate change, a contracting party could add a site shown to be deleteriously affected by climate change to the ‘Montreux Record’, the list of designated Ramsar sites where substantial changes in ecological character have occurred. Once a designated site is on the Montreux Record, assistance can be sought from the Ramsar Bureau on mitigation and/or adaptive management. Following a review, COP8 of the Ramsar Convention received guidance on compensation (no net loss of wetland value or area). Together with the proposed guidance on climate change, as adopted by COP8, the net effect should be to permit contracting parties to use an environmental assessment to state the problem and to propose compensatory measures. For instance, ongoing discussions in Europe are considering more flexible coastal defence systems to allow for sea-level rise by inundating coastal lowlands and retaining coastal habitats (Green et al. 2001). Furthermore, as part of river basin management, areas could be set aside for water storage potentially to compensate for the loss of wetlands and waterbird habitats elsewhere resulting from climate change.

With respect to Natura 2000 sites, the European Commission examined the concept of ‘timeliness’ of compensatory measures. This provides that compensation, in the form of replacement habitat functionally integrated into the site and with equivalent biological characteristics to those to be lost, should be in place before a site is irreversibly affected (European Commission 2002). This guidance could be used by member states proactively to adjust the Natura 2000 network in response to climate change. However, this may be difficult to implement, because although protected sites and reserves often represent less than 10% of the area of countries, there may be little space available in EU member states to use for any adjustment. This issue, which has been little explored, touches on the ability of national procedures to change land use to meet international legal obligations under conservation treaties.

The basic principle for species conservation formulated by the CMS is to keep populations of migratory species in a ‘favourable conservation status’. This makes it clear that if climate change affects major habitats for species, other areas should be made available or populations may no longer remain in a favourable conservation status. Although it is unnecessary to reformulate the convention to cope with the effects of climate change, to use it effectively will require forward thinking and the application of the precautionary principle in conjunction with sound science-based information. For example, presently unused suboptimal habitats that may become more attractive in future should be identified, possibly managed for conservation and made available for wildlife. This approach should be applied at the flyway level as suitable habitats may not occur within the borders of the country where particular species are presently found and protected, and even if such habitats did exist they may no longer be suitable as waterbird distributions change with climate change (Rehfisch & Crick 2003). This is a strong argument to have flyway management organized in a few large-scale formal agreements to achieve the necessary geographical flexibility for site allocation and to create incentives for governmental co-operation.

A policy gap that needs to be addressed urgently relates to the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions where many migratory waterbirds breed. These regions need safeguarding urgently given that the effects of climate change are already apparent in tundra areas of the Arctic. Modelling suggests that future Arctic ecosystems will be reduced in size and that high-Arctic ecosystems and their associated species, such as breeding Red Knot Calidris canutus, may disappear altogether (Zöckler & Lysenko 2000, UNEP 2001a, 2001b). Extinctions have almost occurred several times to waterbirds in the Pleistocene as a result of changing climate followed by the geographical isolation of populations (Ploeger 1968, Graham 1988, Ens et al. 1995). Although many northern breeding bird species have survived substantial changes in climate during the ice ages, the complete extinction of some populations or even species cannot be ruled out because the predicted rate of climate change and the expected level of human impacts on the birds and their habitats are far greater than anything witnessed in the past. Furthermore, climate change may again lead to the geographical isolation of waterbird populations and conceivably enhance their geographical differentiation and subspecies/species evolution. This latter issue has yet to be addressed in full by legislation but it already influences the species placed on the annexes of conventions and treaties. During an assessment of the policy and treaty background to conservation of Arctic breeding birds outside of the Arctic, Scott (1998) found large geographical gaps in the effective protection of breeding, staging and wintering areas. To help overcome this problem he recommended that all range states should join AEWA and that similar legal instruments should be developed elsewhere in order to achieve global legal protection of long-distance migratory waterbirds within flexible networks of protected sites. As suitably similar ecosystems cannot be re-created on a sufficient scale to provide adequate compensation for any losses to the Arctic, it is particularly important that the birds are at least well protected away from their Arctic breeding grounds.

So far we have looked specifically at the problems of climate change and treaties in relation to legal systems based on protected areas. Central to such systems is the identification of a variety of more-or-less stable ecosystems because some legal instruments, in particular the Habitats Directive but also the Ramsar Convention, list certain ecosystems that are priorities for protection. To implement such protection, ecosystems have to be clearly defined within the legislation itself (Ramsar Convention) or listed and accepted as part of the biogeographical region of the Habitats Directive.

The present ecosystem definitions may become unsuitable under conditions of climatic change. The differential response of individual species of flora and fauna to climate change could lead to phenological disjunction between the species that comprise an ecosystem (Visser et al. 1998), thus making it likely that some ecosystems, as presently defined, may cease to exist, as may some existing associations between particular habitats and certain endangered species. The precise way that habitats and ecosystems have been formulated in the EU Habitat Directive, for example, may within the foreseeable future cause problems if climate change continues at its present rate. This and other issues have led to the ecosystem concept as a leading tool for treaties to designate protected areas being looked at critically (O’Neill 2001). Monitoring of change is needed to ensure that the information is available to allow the rapid reassessment of ecosystem definitions if and as necessary.


The importance of monitoring

Largely as a result of long-term physical and biological monitoring programmes, the relatively short- and long-term effects of climate change are now well established (e.g. IPCC 2001, Parmesan & Yohe 2003, Root et al. 2003). Although governments tend not to like funding monitoring programmes, their data are essential if the effects of climate change are to be understood and separated from other human influences and short-term weather effects. Indeed, agreement over what constitutes important changes to waterbird populations depends heavily upon the quality and frequency of monitoring. Based on the present monitoring intensity, we believe that changes in the patterns of waterbird distributions are more likely to be visible at a flyway scale rather than in individual range states. However, Rehfisch and Crick (2003) and Rehfisch et al. (2004) demonstrate that detailed data allow smaller-scale changes to be identified. Furthermore, good baseline condition survey data are essential if any change in the ecological status of coastal and inland wetlands with climate change is to be recognized. A challenge for ornithologists is to convince scientists from other disciplines, including meteorologists, sedimentologists, botanists and invertebrate biologists, to co-operate more effectively to achieve better integration of the data necessary to document habitat change and to make reliable forecasts of future needs.

Practical information required to lessen the impact of climate change on waterbirds

How ecosystems adapt to relatively short-term changes in weather could provide insight into how coastal and inland wetlands could react and possibly adapt to climate change, and the implications of this for waterbird distributions and migration. El Niño on the South American Pacific Coast, for example, does not appear to have a strong affect on the ecological character of local wetlands, probably owing to the relatively short period over which it cycles (J. Schlatter pers. comm.). Insight into the capacity of waterbirds to react to extreme weather events, as predicted will increasingly occur with climate change (IPCC 2001), could be gained by the monitoring and study of nomadic species that respond rapidly to the availability of very transient habitats, such as Lake Eyr in Australia. Understanding such systems could help to formulate adaptive management for other species and habitats facing similar problems.

Knowledge of the activities occurring on wetlands at national, regional and global scales has substantially increased since Finlayson and Spiers (1999). Such knowledge should help identify suitable alternative sites that could be used to mitigate against the effect of climate change on waterbirds as well as to provide input into the vulnerability assessments summarized in Table 2 that identify wetlands at risk (van Dam et al. 2001). Further research into the probable effects of climate change on waterbirds would improve the practical value of vulnerability assessments as would agreement being reached about what constitutes an important change. Only then will contracting parties to conventions and treaties be permitted to adapt wetland boundaries to at least maintain the coherence and value of protected sites at a national and flyway level.

Table 2.  Summary of various vulnerability assessment methods. In these the site characteristics, future needs and management strategies tend not to be covered in detail but where considered they relate primarily to the physical, ecological and human characteristics of the site.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC 1992)
 1Delineate case study area and specify accelerated sea-level rise and climate change conditions
 2Produce inventory of study area
 3Identify relevant socio-economic development factors
 4Assess physical changes
 5Formulate response strategies
 6Assess the vulnerability profile
 7Identify future needs
Kay and Waterman (1993)
 1Delineation of a climatic change and sea-level rise impact zone
 2Analysis of the vulnerable and resilient components of the systems within the zone
 3Analysis of the links between the systems within the impact zone and the systems within the connected areas
 4Formulation of management strategies within the impact zone and connected areas
Harvey et al. (1999)
 1Definition of the spatial scale of the entire study area using biophysical and socio-economic boundaries
 2Definition of the temporal scale that incorporates current human-induced hazards and potential climate change hazards
 3Collection of the data on the relevant biophysical characteristics of the study area
 4Collection of data on the socio-economic, cultural and heritage characteristics of the study area
 5Reiteration of stages 1–4 for selected study sites
 6Identification of the relevant legislation, jurisdictions, plans and polices for the study area for different levels of governance
 7Assessment of coastal vulnerability in both qualitative and quantitative terms on the basis of the various techniques utilized within the assessment
 8Setting priorities for current management and further long-term objectives according to the problems identified

The International Waterbird Census (IWC) co-ordinated by Wetlands International and the data collected by BirdLife International to identify Important Bird Areas (IBAs) can provide much of the background information necessary to identify potential compensatory sites for waterbirds. The IWC has a substantial global coverage and surveys as many sites as possible. Especially if carried out in conjunction with predictions of the direction of likely waterbird distributional shifts, detailed analyses of the IWC databases could generate an alternative or reserve list of sites to be protected in advance of any loss in quality of present protected areas (Delany 1999, Blanco & Carbonell 2001, Rehfisch & Crick 2003).

The systematic collection of information on the timing of migration, moult and breeding combined with the IWC and IBA datasets on waterbird numbers could be used to identify how the phenology of essential life-cycle events has and will change with climate change (but see Sparks & Mason 2004). Such integrated analyses could be used to modify the management of populations to avoid their non-sustainable use by changing the protection status of species, adjusting harvest periods, etc. Most treaties have procedures, to be applied via formal decisions of conferences of parties that would make it possible to implement such changes.

Where applicable, additionally agri-environment incentives can be targeted to the relatively easy and rapid large-scale creation or improvement of wetlands for waterbirds (Atkinson et al. 2004). The proposal to encourage the increased collection of waterbird count data and information on the phenology of life-events, in combination with the possibility of applying financial incentives, should provide useful preliminary guidance to the future conferences of the parties of the relevant conventions on how to deal with climate change issues. This would help ensure that contracting parties have the right tools to deal with climate change impacts on breeding, feeding, moulting and stopover areas, both from a habitat/site perspective and with regard to the sustainable management of populations.


Although none of the current global and regional policies and treaties (Table 1) has formally been amended to deal with climate change, most include mechanisms that permit the implementation of measures to help waterbirds cope with the effects of climate change, provided that governments respond to guidance that is emerging from the key global biodiversity-related conventions.

Fundamental to the necessary flexible adaptive management approach is that this guidance should include a ‘no-net-loss policy’ for wetlands or the probably more difficult to implement no-net-loss of species and/or populations. Such policies could be achieved with the present international legal tools by adopting additional legislation via formal resolutions to most global and regional conventions and treaties. Whereas this would be a time-consuming process, mainly because the parties to most conventions only meet once every 3 years, the process itself is not difficult. In particular with respect to the Ramsar Convention and the EU Bird and Habitat Directives, such additional arrangements should allow for more flexibility in the changing of designated site borders. In the way that Natura 2000 does for other purposes, these arrangements could also provide for the setting aside of reserve sites to help mitigate against the effects of climate change. The existing IWC and IBA programme databases could help identify such sites.

A forward-looking approach will be required to implement such plans within and across country boundaries. The concept of ecological networks that makes it possible to allocate land for conservation purposes to mitigate for any irreversible loss and the application of vulnerability assessments should help in this regard. Already, in some countries space may no longer be available for alternative or reserve sites. It is therefore urgent to adopt national and international tools (legislation, agreed strategies, etc.) that bring no-net-loss policies into practice, while identifying suitable reserve sites in other countries and urging countries with space to provide new habitats through habitat creation or restoration. The Carbon Trading approach could be valuable in facilitating this approach by encouraging countries without space to provide incentives to those with space to provide guaranteed habitat for wildlife.

The real challenge with regard to migratory waterbirds is to achieve a sufficient coherence of approach by different countries to guarantee that protected sites are adequate and adapted as necessary over a large geographical area. Flyway agreements should be of great value in helping achieve this coherence.

However, this does not solve the fundamental issue of how to apply the ecosystem approach. As presently defined, it is unlikely to be useful because habitat–species associations are likely to change rapidly as a result of climate change. With climate change effects already apparent, this fundamental discussion about how the ecosystem approach should be redefined or replaced needs to take place at the next conferences of parties of the various conventions and treaties. More predictive research into what is likely to happen to waterbird ecosystem usage with climate change would help inform these discussions.


Glossary of specialist terms and explanatory details

Agreements: intergovernmental arrangements either with a legal status (such as agreements under the CMS) or formulated on the basis of agreed mutual interests and activities to be taken without an international legal status.

Conventions: formal intergovernmental arrangements developed to assist international activities to achieve a certain goal. A convention text has to be accepted at a formal intergovernmental diplomatic conference.

Ecological corridor: a connection area between, for example, two nature reserves and part of an ecological network. These may be specifically developed by changing the land use of the connection area to the advantage of wildlife.

Ecological network: a policy concept that connects protected areas with natural areas often of less biodiversity value than the protected sites and often maintained by management agreements rather than legal protection. Migration routes or flyways can be considered to be a specific case of ecological networks or can even be seen, in a holistic way, as the ‘ecosystem’ for the species.

Instruments or tools: collective name for conventions/treaties, strategies, MoUs or agreements to be used to assist intergovernmental co-operation.

Meeting of the conference of the parties (COP): decision making body of a convention made up by country delegations with the right to vote.

Memorandum of agreement (MoA): similar to MoU but often used for a well-described one-off activity.

Memorandum of understanding (MoU): international arrangement to undertake a certain action, between either countries, countries and non-governmental organizations, etc. These are rather formal but not legally binding.

Multilateral environment agreements or MEAs: collective term for all intergovernmental conventions

Obligations: all type of activities, actions rules, restrictions, etc., formulated in a convention and accepted by a party when it ratifies the convention.

Parties: countries that have accepted the convention via a ratification procedure (set of diplomatic papers) often only possible if approved by a decision of the parliament (if it has financial implications) or head of state.

Strategy: a not legally binding document formulating a set of objectives, goals and aims signed by a number of countries and organizations. A strategy is often used in situations where more legal binding arrangements such as MoUs, formal agreements or conventions/treaties cannot be applied or would stop a country actively participating.