Cambridge, UK, 29th October 2002 ? On the day the UN Global Mountain Summit opens in Kyrgyzstan, BirdLife International is warning that continued over-exploitation of Europe`s fragile mountain ecosystems poses a threat to the future of more than half the region`s mountain birds.
Thirty-seven of Europe`s 73 mountain bird species are threatened by over-exploitation, inappropriate farming and forestry practices, and unsustainable tourism activities carried out in mountain areas, said BirdLife International`s Head of European Division, Canan Orhun, in a letter sent to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) informing the organisation of BirdLife`s intention to join UNEP`s International Year of the Mountains partnership initiative.
Many of Europe`s regionally threatened species including the majestic Lammergeier or Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus and Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos face the threat of regional extinction if the mountain ecosystems they depend on in the Alps and Pyrenees continue to be over-exploited for winter sports and summer tourism developments, said Szabolcs Nagy, European Conservation Manager.
Another species at risk is the flamboyant Caucasian Black Grouse Tetrao mlokosiewiczi which is declining due to habitat destruction and persecution in the Caucasus, he said.
BirdLife International partner organisations in Europe have also contributed information to a special web presentation (http://www.birdlife.net/europe/mountains/) which includes detailed data about 558 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) which occur in mountain areas, and Europe`s 73 mountain bird species, as well as a selection of photographs and maps. The web presentation is part of a BirdLife initiative promoting better protection of mountains through the establishment of mountain reserves and the promotion of environmentally sustainable development such as eco-agriculture, eco-forestry and eco-tourism with the involvement of local communities.
BirdLife International, the German Society for Nature Conservation (NABU - BirdLife in Germany), Azerbaijan Centre for the Protection of Birds, and the Georgian Center for the Conservation of Wildlife are also developing a community-based project in the Caucasus mountains to improve the conservation status of Caucasian Black Grouse at 5 sites in Georgia and Azerbaijan, and plan to promote some of these pilot areas amongst responsible eco-tourist operators worldwide to help increase local incomes.
BirdLife International has identified 558 Important Bird Areas in mountainous areas which are critical to conserve in order to save the rich diversity of Europe`s mountain birds, said Szabolcs Nagy. Ninety-one percent of these mountain sites are subject to one or more threat resulting from unsustainable human activities.
Created: 29th Oct 2002