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Iraqi environment

BirdLife survey teams to assess environmental impacts of war in Iraq…

BirdLife International today [29 April 2003] announced it will send five teams of field biologists to assess the impacts of war in Iraq on the conservation status of key habitats, sites and species. The teams will focus on the Mesopotamian marshes Endemic Bird Area (EBA), 42 Important Bird Areas (IBAs), 24 globally threatened bird species, 3 endemic or near-endemic bird species and 5 endemic or near endemic bird sub-species as soon as it is safe to do so.BirdLife is concerned the conflict may have had environmental impacts on the Important Bird Areas and globally threatened and endemic bird species that occur in Iraq, said BirdLife International Iraq Project Co-ordinator Richard Porter. The draining of the Mesopotamian Marshes Endemic Bird Area over the last 30 years will also have threatened, and perhaps eliminated, a number of the Important Bird Areas. With infrastructure plans being publicly discussed, mismanagement of post-conflict reconstruction now probably poses the greatest threat to biodiversity and local wildlife communities he said.A survey team composed of BirdLife staff from within the Middle East and Britain will travel from BirdLife`s Middle East Region Office in Amman, Jordan, to Iraq as soon as it is safe to do so. The team will carry out a one-month assessment of a selection of sites in order to make recommendations for further action. This is to be followed by four further survey teams that will undertake quantitative assessments over two months of all 42 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Iraq, focussing on the Mesopotamian Marshes Endemic Bird Area (EBA) and the globally threatened and endemic birds for which Iraq is particularly important.We anticipate the BirdLife teams will work closely with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), a network of Iraqi ornithologists andconservationists, and other agencies committed to the conservation ofbiodiversity in Iraq. The information obtained will be vital for future conservation and land use policy. In the longer term, BirdLife hopes to work collaboratively with others to undertake a complete winter census of water birds in Iraq which will mirror the previous surveys conducted between 1967 and 1979 by Wetlands International, he said.One species of concern is Basra Reed-Warbler Acrocephalus griseldis. This near-endemic species is currently being reassessed by BirdLife for the 2002 IUCN Red List of Globally Threatened Species. Information available before the war indicated that its survival status has deteriorated from Near Threatened to Endangered. Mr Porter also met today with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Post Conflict Assessment Unit in Geneva to discuss both organisations` plans. For further information or to request please contact Michael Szabo at the BirdLife International Secretariat in Cambridge, UK, on +44 (0)1223 279 903 or +44 (0)1223 277 300.

4th July 2014