Conservation Status Report Shows Upward Trend for Migratory Waterbirds

Bonn, 26 November 2018 -  Bucking a major general trend, the overall status of waterbird populations listed on the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA) has slightly improved over the last ten years, says a new report being presented to governments at the upcoming AEWA Meeting of the Parties (AEWA MOP7) to be held 4- 8 December in Durban, South Africa.

The 7th Edition of the AEWA Conservation Status Review of Migratory Waterbirds in the Agreement Area (CSR7) provides a long-term view of the changing status of migratory waterbird populations listed under AEWA.

The upward trend assessed in the report is due to concerted conservation actions along the birds’ migration routes, the so-called flyways. These range from targeted species action planning for the most threatened species to ensuring that hunting of widespread waterbirds species is sustainable.

AEWA protects nearly half a billion waterbirds and seabirds across the African-Eurasian Flyway.  More than 220 species covered by AEWA have been assessed in the report.

AEWA Executive Secretary Jacques Trouvilliez said: “AEWA is an example of an environmental treaty which can record a clear conservation success. The report shows that the overall status of migratory waterbirds in Africa and Eurasia is actually improving instead of getting worse. Flyways are the pertinent scale to implement coordinated actions between breeding and wintering areas. I would like to thank the Parties to AEWA which collaborate through specific action plans or thematic issues.”

Currently more than 60 per cent of populations of the species covered by AEWA are stable or increasing. Pelicans, cormorants, avocets and stilts, flamingos and storks are the waterbird families with the highest proportion of increasing populations.  However, crane and auk numbers are in strong decline. And the highest proportion of populations on the Endangered IUCN Red List are in Eastern and Southern Africa.

Although AEWA is successful with recovery of threatened species, it is challenging for the treaty to stop the decline amongst the more common waterbirds as they are facing habitat degradation or reduction in at least some parts of their ranges. Climate change will affect hydrological regime of many wetlands which are also under human demographic pressure. Combating climate change and involving local communities are two key measures for stopping the decline of common species.

Species are becoming globally threatened much faster than they can recover. It is a race against time. The situation is most dramatic for the birds that depend on farmed habitats – meadows and fields - and on the marine environment.

Habitat loss and intensive agricultural practices are affecting farmland species.  Drainage and overgrazing or the lack of grazing by livestock lead to degraded habitats for waterbirds.

Examples of farmland birds affected are the Northern Lapwing, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Eurasian Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit and Sociable Lapwing in Eurasia, and Black Crowned, Grey Crowned and Blue Cranes in Africa.

The status of seabirds is particularly worrying with the shortage of food due to overfishing, bycatch in fishing gear, climate change and pollution posing serious risks.

Seabirds that are already threatened or near threatened are the Long-tailed Duck, Velvet Scoter, Common Eider, Razorbill, Atlantic Puffin, Black-legged Kittiwake and Yellow-billed Loon in Europe.  Affected seabirds in Africa are the Cape Gannet, the African Penguin, Cape and Bank Cormorants and the Damara Tern.  

Both farmland birds and seabirds would benefit from conservation measures beyond protected areas. Conserving their habitats both at sites and in the wider landscape is necessary to keep common birds common. In addition, hunting must not threaten populations and other factors leading to unnecessary mortality must be reduced.

The report recommends integrating bird conservation into a wide range of other land use policies. In the EU, action plans to preserve species and their habitats in agriculture and fisheries policies are efforts in this direction.

The new Strategic Plan (2019 – 2027) of AEWA also being reviewed by Parties at AEWA MOP7, includes measures to step up habitat conservation efforts as well as responses to the findings of the CSR report.

The Strategic Plan will contribute not only to achieving AEWA's conservation targets but also to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Biodiversity Aichi Targets. For example, sustainable fisheries and agriculture are amongst the key prerequisite for species conservation. They are also enshrined in the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The findings of the CSR7 review were first published on 11 October 2018 ahead of World Migratory Bird Day, an annual, UN-backed global awareness-raising and environmental education campaign focused on migratory birds and the need for international cooperation to conserve them.

Related link:

Report on the Conservation Status of Migratory Waterbirds in the AEWA Agreement Area (Seventh Edition)

Last updated on 27 November 2018

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