October 20th, 2010

Wetlands International – State of the World’s Waterbirds: in trouble in Asia, recovering in ‘the West’

State of the World’s Waterbirds

These are the key findings of the State of the World’s Waterbirds 2010 launched by Wetlands International on 21st October at the Biodiversity in Nagoya, Japan. This publication analyses the changes in the status of waterbird populations between 1976 and 2005 using the data collected for the four editions of Waterbird Population Estimates published by the organisation since 1994.

Dependent on economical activity and conservation measures

The status of waterbird populations is improving in regions where strong conservation legislation is implemented, such as North America and Europe.

However, the rate of decline of waterbird populations is increasing in all other regions without such instruments. The situation is especially alarming in Asia where 62% of waterbird populations are decreasing or even extinct. The combination of a rapid economical growth and weak conservation efforts appears to be lethal. Waterbird populations are exposed to a wide range of threats such as the loss and degradation of marshes and lakes, water regulation, agricultural intensification, hunting and climate change.

Long distance migrants

The status of long-distance migrant waterbirds is generally worse than of those remaining in regions with strong conservation measures. This highlights the importance of coordinated conservation measures across entire flyways from the breeding to the non-breeding grounds.

“It is not surprising that the rate of decline of the long distant migrant sandpipers, snipes and curlews has accelerated most rapidly. Now, 70% of their populations are decreasing. Halting destruction of their migratory staging areas is vital,” says Prof Nick Davidson, Deputy Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. On the other hand, the improving status of many crane species demonstrates that targeted conservation actions for the protection of key sites can produce positive results.

Action needed

“We feel we have to put more effort into the conservation of waterbirds in this region” states Mr. Daizaburo Kuroda, Senior Councilor, to the Japanese Minister of the Environment that supported the publication.

“The decline of waterbird populations in developing countries is an indication of the environmental problems in these parts of the world. The world community of governments that is gathering at the UN Conference in Japan should take action to reverse this trend” states Dr. Taej Mundkur, Wetlands International’s Flyway Programme Manager.

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