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Europe Chapter News

13th Annual Meeting SWS Europe Chapter Ohrid, Macedonia 30th April to 4 May 2018 

Around 50 people from 18 countries gathered from 30 April-4 May, 2018 in the beautiful and historic city of Ohrid, Macedonia for the 13th annual meeting of the SWS Europe chapter. The theme of the meeting was “Management of Wetland Ecosystem Services: issues, challenges and solutions”, a topic closely tied to SWS support for local Macedonian groups trying to protect Studenchishte Marsh, the last remaining intact wetland on the Macedonian shoreline of Lake Ohrid, one of the oldest (~2 mya) and ecologically special lakes in Europe. The meeting was held in Ohrid to show our continued support for the protection of Studenchishte Marsh, provide additional information about wetlands in general and the current state of Studenchishte Marsh in particular and to meet and engage with local and national Macedonian politicians. The meeting was a success on all points. Jos Verhoeven, the chapter’s past-president, was especially important in putting the meeting together along with the local Macedonian organizers led by Dragana Velkovska. Dragana and her colleagues, along with much input from Jos, did a wonderful job in planning and running the meeting. There were two days of oral presentations with two plenary talks on each day all from Macedonian scientists. The first plenary talk was given by Drs. Slavco Hristovski and Valentina Slavevska-Stamenkovic, University St Cyril and Methodius, Skopje, Macedonia, who presented a good overview of the natural values of the joint Ohrid-Prespa system, with special emphasis on Studenchishte Marsh. The first afternoon plenary talk was given by Dr. Aleksandra Cvetkoska, also from the University St Cyril and Methodius, Skopje, Macedonia, who presented a very interesting talk on the paleological history of Lake Prespa and the relation to long-term climate changes. Both plenary talks were followed by oral presentation sessions.

The second day of talks began with an official session at which local (Jovan Stojanoski, Mayor of Ohrid; Trajce Talevski, Hydrobiological Institute in Ohrid and OhridSOS) and national (Aleksandar Nastov, Macedonian Ministry of the Environment) politicians and scientists spoke about the need to protect the wetlands given the likely aspect of increased tourism in the area. Mr. Nastov mentioned that the national Macedonian government will now push for nominating Studenchishte Marsh as a Ramsar area within this year. The session was led by Jos Verhoeven who also read a letter from the Ramsar Secretariat in support of designating Studenchishte Marsh as a wetland of international importance. The official session was followed by a press conference for Macedonian media in which all participants in the official session repeated what they had said to the meeting participants. This was followed by the same format of plenary talks and oral presentations as on day one. The morning plenary speaker was Dr. Trajce Talevski (Macedonian Hydrobiological Institute, Ohrid) who talked about the current state and possible dangers to the Lake Ohrid ecosystem. The second plenary talk in the afternoon was given by Dr. Marina Talevska, also of the Hydrobiological Institute in Ohrid, who presented an overview of the macrophytes in both Lakes Ohrid and Prespa. As on day one, both plenary talks were followed by oral presentations. All talks were of quite high quality, resulting in good discussions during and after the oral sessions. These discussions continued later in the restaurants and pubs of Ohrid.

A field trip day took place in the middle of the conference. The morning saw the participants divided into two groups to tour the historic part of Ohrid. Then all participants went to Studenchishte Marsh where Dr. Slavco Hristovski led a tour of this important wetland area. At the same time, several members of the Europe chapter made a rapid ecosystem assessment of the marsh so to provide

Our local organizers as well as government officials with the latest information concerning the current status of Studenchishte Marsh. Special mention is given to Rob McInnes and Matthew Simpson for leading and conducting the assessment. After lunch, the trip ended in the smaller town of Struga, where the River Black Drim is the only outflow from Lake Ohrid. The area previously contained numerous wetlands, but most of these have been drained for agricultural purposes.

The conference dinner followed that evening at the Royal View Hotel. The food, local beer and wine, and views made for a very enjoyable evening.

A post-meeting field trip was made to the nearby Lake Prespa region. The tour included a visit to an on-going wetland restoration project at the Ezerani Nature Park. Along the way, we spotted several Dalmatian and White Pelicans, two of the most important bird species on Lake Prespa. After lunch, consisting of many Macedonian dishes, all being quite good, the tour went over Galicica Mountain, which separates Lakes Prespa and Ohrid, through the Baba Pass, to Sveti Naum. This is an area in which are located some of the main springs which feed Lake Ohrid, with water from Lake Prespa flowing through the karstic bedrock of Galicica Mountain. A boat trip along the very clear waters of a small lake takes one to the springs. In addition, Sveti Naum contains the 9th century church and monastery founded by Sveti Naum and is an important cultural landmark for Macedonians.

The outcomes of the meeting included, first, recognizing the presentation of Valentini Maliaka of Nijmegen University as the best student presentation at the meeting. For this, Valentini was awarded 200 Euros. Second, SWS-Europe produced a Declaration on the Protection of the Lake Ohrid Ecosystem, recognizing the important ecosystem services provided by the wetlands of the Lake Ohrid system and how the health of these are tied to the economic well-being of the Ohrid area. The declaration thus calls upon the local and national Macedonian authorities to develop tourism attractions and activities in a way that will also help maintain and even enhance the well-being of the environment which is a basis for the local economy.

All in all, it was a highly stimulating and productive meeting which was thoroughly enjoyed by all. We are all looking forward to the next annual meeting which will be held either in France (The Camargue) or the UK. The place and dates are still to be decided. Look to this space for details.

Read The Declaration on the Protecion of the Lake Ohrid EcoSystem HERE

Review Abstract Book  HERE

ViewofOhrid  View Of Ohrid, Macedonia

StudenchirshteMarchStudenchishte March

The Church of St. John of Kanoe with Lake Ohrid & Galicia Mountain in the background. 










ANastov     Dr. Aleksandar Nastov of the Macedonian Ministry of the Environment.

JosvehoevenOfficial session led by Dr. Jos Verhoeven with local and National Macedonian officials and scientists.

Paticipants    Participants of the SWS Europe meeting hard at work. 


 Verhoeven and Bragazza published in Nature Communications

SWS Europe Chapter Past President Jos Verhoeven and fellow Europe Chapter member Luca Bragazza were recently published in Nature Communications as co-authors of "Taxonomic and functional turnover are decoupled in European peat bogs." This paper is the result of a large European project funded by various national science foundations on the impact of atmospheric deposition and climate change on peat-bog ecosystems. The PEATBOG project had a special session at the 2012 SWS Europe Chapter meeting in Padua. Verhoeven's and Bragazza's group had the task to do a Europe-wide survey with field visits and observations on vegetation, hydrology and water chemistry. Jos Verhoeven's postdoc Bjorn Robroek visited 56 peat bogs and he was fortunate to join him in quite some cases. Learn more.

Verhoeven receives the 2017 President's Service Award

The President's Service Award recognizes those members who have made significant contributions by serving the Society and its members. Recipients of the Service Award have promoted the goals of the Society in their efforts that extend above and beyond their duties as teachers, researchers, and administrators. As Gillian Davies looked back on her year of being president, she recognised tremendous accomplishments for our Society, which could not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of so many SWS members. Among this dedicated crowd, a handful of people, four to be exact, stood out because they have given selflessly of their time and their creativity year after year, serving in one leadership position after another. Their energy and devotion to SWS seem endless, as they are always taking up a new task or a new leadership position.

One of those people is Jos Verhoeven, who has served as the SWS Europe Chapter President from 2010 - 2017. Jos’s kind but strong voice has challenged SWS to function at a higher level as an international organization, while simultaneously advocating on behalf of SWS on the international stage. Jos served as Vice-Chair of the Organizing Committee for the 10th INTECOL International Wetlands Conference, and in that capacity, was instrumental in promoting SWS so that we were included on the stage along with other organizations such as Ramsar and Wetlands International. Jos has, and or is, served or serving on the Internationalization Ad Hoc Committee, Governance Structure Ad Hoc Committee, the Nominations Committee, the Chapter Fees Evaluation Committee, the Awards Committee, the Webinar Subcommittee, and has Chaired the Merit and Lifetime Achievement Awards Subcommittee. Jos worked tirelessly with SWS leadership and others in Europe to advocate on behalf of, Studentchista Marsh at Lake Ohrid in Macedonia, in an effort to help protect the last remaining wetland bordering one of the largest, deepest and oldest lakes in Europe. Jos, along with other Europe Chapter leaders, envisions a Europe Chapter with broad partnerships throughout Europe, and to that end, he and others planned the recent Europe Chapter Annual Meeting to be held jointly with the European Pond Network, and the chapter signed Memoranda of Cooperation with two other wetlands organizations and worked collaboratively with our international Executive Board to invite the Ramsar Secretary General to the meeting, where we had the opportunity to meet with her in person and renew our Memorandum of Cooperation with Ramsar. Jos’s efforts have been central to the growth not only of his chapter, but also of SWS on the international stage.

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SWS President Gillian Davies awards Jos Verhoeven the President's Service Award at the 2017 SWS Annual Meeting.

2017 Europe Chapter Meeting held in Portugal 

Th 12th Annual Europe Chapter Meeting was organized with the European Pond Conservation Network (EPCN), and took place the first week of May, in Faro, Portugal. There were keynotes on Doñana National Park, Wetlands for removal of pharmaceuticals and on Paludiculture. A special highlight was the signing of a new Memorandum of Cooperation between SWS and the Ramsar Convention, by SWS President Gillian Davies and Ramsar Secretary General Martha Rojas Urrego. The SWS Europe Chapter also signed Memorandums of Cooperation with the Wetlands for Pollution Control (WETPOL) and with the Constucted Wetlands Association (CWA). Read more here.

2017 elections
At the meeting, there were elections for all three officer positions, for a new three-year period. It was also decided to expand the board by adding a past-president position, representatives from WETPOL and CWA and two student representatives. Since May 5, 2017, the board comprises of the following members:

  • President: Matthew Simpson
  • Past President: Jos Verhoeven
  • Secretary: Keith Edwards
  • Treasurer: Matthew Cochran
  • WETPOL observer: Diederik Rousseau
  • CWA observer: 
  • Student member: Dan Roberts (Bangor University, UK)

PWS program expands to Europe
The first SWS European Student Association was set up by Professor Chris Freeman at Bangor University, in Wales, UK. This group of Master's and Ph.D. students will carry out wetland research and share their experiences through the SWS Student Association network.

Protection of Lake Ohrid and the Studenchiste Wetland
The SWS Europe Chapter has continued its efforts helping to protect Lake Ohrid and the Studenchiste Wetland by sending Jos Verhoeven to Macedonia. A Round Table meeting was held in Skopje that brought together various stakeholders from Ohrid SOS and other NGOs, universities and the Ministry of the Environment. A document with the conclusions of the Round Table can be found here. In addition, the 13th annual meeting will be organized in Ohrid, Macedonia, in 2018. 

2018 Europe Chapter Meeting
The SWS Europe chapter will hold its 13th annual meeting in Ohrid, Macedonia, from April 30 - May 5, 2018. The planning for the meeting has already started. Tentatively, we hope to have two days of presentations (oral / poster) as well as two field trip days. Ohrid is an authentic town with a scenic location on the north shore of Lake Ohrid, the oldest lake in Europe. Other natural highlights in the vicinity include Galichica Mountain and Lake Prespa. The threatened Studenichiste wetland, on the shore of Lake Ohrid, has been protected for the foreseeable future with help from SWS, and is a location of one of the proposed field trips. All are welcome to come join us in what promises to be a very interesting and beautiful location. Start planning early. Look here for future information concerning registration, fees, accomodations, etc.

Download the EPCN-SWS Abstract Book here.

WETPOL calls for abstracts

The Wetland Systems for Water Pollution Control (WETPOL) planning committee is now accepting abstracts for its 2017 meeting in Big Sky, Montana, USA. Learn more about the meeting here. To learn more about abstract submission, please click here. Deadline to submit an abstract is is January 31, 2017.

Luc Hoffmann, a life dedicated to nature conservation 

Luc Hoffmann, who passed away at age 93, was one of the last surviving greats in 20th-century nature conservation. As co-founder of the World Wildlife Fund, he helped turn conservation from a parochial, insular pursuit into a truly international movement. He was instrumental in developing the Ramsar Convention, which for the first time provided cross-border protection for wetlands. In 2004, Hoffmann received the INTECOL International Award for Wetland Conservation. Read more here

 Hoffmann picture

Luc (Hans Lukas) Hoffmann: ecologist, conservationist, born 23 January 1923; died 21 July 2016.

2016 Europe Chapter Annual Meeting held in Germany 

Around 100 people from 23 countries gathered from 17-20 May, 2016 in the beautiful and historic city of Potsdam, Germany for the 11th annual meeting of the SWS Europe chapter. The theme of the meeting was “Wetland-Science and Society: Knowledge transfer, conservation conflicts and restoration management”. A special guest was SWS President Kim Ponzio. Our hosts, Dominik Zak and Jorg Gelbrecht, and their colleagues did a wonderful job in planning and running the meeting. 

To learn more about this meeting, visit the chapter events page.

Květ receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Dr. Jan Květ received the SWS Lifetime Achievement Award on June 2, 2015. We sincerely congratulate our great ‘Nestor’, Dr. Jan Květ, from České Budějovice, Czech Republic, with the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award he received during the annual SWS meeting in Providence. Jan’s great accomplishments in wetland science and his major role as a scientific director, his stimulating activities for national and international nature conservation and his ongoing participation in the SWS Europe chapter and the Society as a whole have now been recognized in the most honourable way. We hope to enjoy his inspiring presentations and discussions for a long time to come!


Dr. Jan Květ receives the SWS Lifetime Achievement Award.

2015 Europe Chapter Annual Meeting in Slovenia

Around 50 people gathered from 10-13 May, 2015 in the beautiful town of Bled, Slovenia for the 10th annual meeting of the Europe chapter of SWS. The meeting aimed to offer the opportunity to present achievements of European wetland scientists and the research field, and to generate a vision for future research.

There were two days of oral and poster presentations with a plenary talk on each day. Our host, Alenka Gaberščik, and her colleagues did a wonderful job in planning and running the meeting. There were good discussions during and after the oral sessions and poster presentations, with the discussions continuing later in the restaurants and pubs of Bled.

To learn more about this meeting, visit the chapter events page.

Europe Chapter hosts successful annual meeting in Spain

More than 300 wetland scientists and practitioners travelled from 27 countries to the beautiful city of Huesca, Spain to discuss, debate and most importantly of all to celebrate wetlands.

Informal debates, individual presentations and panel discussions have highlighted the importance of the wise use of wetlands and the key role they play in maintaining human wellbeing across Europe and beyond.

The IXth European Wetland Congress of the Europe Chapter of the Society of Wetland Scientists, held in collaboration with the European Pond Conservation Network, highlighted the continued degradation and loss of wetlands and emphasize the need for better protection, enhanced cooperation across sectors and improved integration of the multiple values of wetlands in decision-making. The challenge remains for the political will of governments to match the quality of wetland science and the ambition of wetland scientists.

Read more meeting highlights by visiting the chapter events page.

Europe Chapter