International Wader Study Group meets in Spain, September 2003


International Wader Study Group (WSG) annual Conference
Cadiz, Spain, 26-28 September 2003

The International Wader Study Group (WSG) is an independent NGO (registered in the Netherlands) with membership of c.600 wader (shorebird) research and conservation people worldwide. It acts as Wetlands International's and IUCN-SSC's Wader Specialist Group. Ramsar's Deputy Secretary General presently serves as one of its Vice-Chairmen, and STRP member David Stroud is the Group's Wetlands International-WSG Liaison Officer.

The group is highly active, publishing a 40-60 page Bulletin three times a year, and an occasional International Wader Studies (IWS) series with more substantial thematic wader science and conservation resource material -- the 100th Bulletin, a bumper issue of 39 papers on "Big Issues in wader science and conservation", includes many articles on waterbird conservation that are relevant to Ramsar. The next two IWS issues will be a comprehensive review of the status of breeding wader populations in Europe and the detailed updating by the WSG of the status of all African-Eurasian migratory wader populations, used as the basis to estimates and 1% thresholds in Wetlands International's Waterbird Population Estimates 3rd Edition.

The Conference, hosted by the coastal waterbird research group of the University of Cadiz, had about 140 participants from 20 countries. A major focus of this year's meeting was a one-day workshop on "Declining Wader Populations Worldwide", which reviewed the current state of knowledge of population sizes and trends on each of the world's different flyways and discussed issues and likely causes of declines in many populations. Ramsar's Nick Davidson made two presentations in the workshop - one on the link between high dependency on the Wadden Sea during migratory staging and major population declines; the other on the status of waders on the Central Asia flyway.

The alarming and depressing results - overall, three times as many wader populations are declining as increasing - and recommendations for further work were brought together in the "Cadiz Conclusions" agreed by the conference. These have just been issued this week on the Group's Web site ( and will be sent widely for consideration by relevant conventions, including Ramsar, and other organizations and governments. This workshop also served as a preparatory meeting for taking these issues forward to the Global Flyways Conference in Edinburgh in April 2004, where it is planned to focus a symposium on the causes and drivers of population declines (and increases).

A field excursion visited the Cadiz Bay Parc Naturel Ramsar site. The bay has extensive areas of largely abandoned salines (some of which are now fishponds), and the visit included one of the only two remaining commercial salt operations and an area of salines recently restored (through an EU Life project) to a tidal flow system with public access created for local communities.

Participants discussing worldwide declines in wader populations

Abandoned salines in Cadiz Bay Ramsar site

Commercial salt production

Restored salines, and STRP member David Stroud

-- reporting and photos by Nick Davidson, Ramsar

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