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Study reveals further declines for the world?s waterbirds

Human impact cause of decline

A new publication released today reveals continued declines in many waterbird populations across the world. The Wetlands International report, the fourth edition of ‘Waterbird Population Estimates’, presents estimates and trends of 878 waterbird species spread around the world. Of these 44% of populations for which trend data were available were found to be decreasing or have become extinct since the last edition was released in 2002.

“The results of this publication highlight clearly how vulnerable waterbirds, and wetlands, are to man-made change.” commented Mike Crosby, Research & Data Manager of BirdLife’s Asia Division. The report was based on annual field surveys by 15,000 voluntary expert observers across hundreds of sites worldwide, many of them Important Bird Areas (IBAs).

“Due mainly to their importance for large congregations of waterbirds, wetlands make up a high percentage of Important Bird Areas (IBAs). These habitats are crucial for birds and for other species, but significantly, wetlands are important for people, their livelihoods and the economy of their nation.” said Dr Lincoln Fishpool, Global IBA Coordinator at BirdLife International. The new publication highlights how human impacts like reclamation of wetlands, increasing pollution and illegal hunting as well as expanding “urban-sprawl” are factors behind the reported population declines. Asia continues to be the continent of most concern; 62% of waterbird populations were found to be decreasing or have become extinct.

This is a reflection of the low level of site-protection which sites are afforded in Asia, say BirdLife International: “Improved protection and management of wetlands is vital if we are to prevent the extinctions of many of Asia’s unique waterbirds, and to sustain the livelihoods of the people who rely on wetland resources." said Mr Crosby.

In 2005 a publication by BirdLife International showed that just 11% of key wetland sites in Asia were afforded protection under the Ramsar Convention, a global framework for international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands.

BirdLife have been calling for more action to protect sites that have been identified as supporting large numbers of waterbirds in Asia and Africa. For more information on this work in Asia, see our newstory: ‘Asian governments urged to strengthen wetland protection’. For Africa see: ‘Africa's top wetland bird sites lack international protection, says new report’.

4th July 2014