Scientists warn world's waterbirds under threat

05/04/2004

Global Flyways Conference 2004

A global review of the conservation, management and research of the world's major flyways

3-8 April 2004, Edinburgh, UK

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EMBARGOED UNTIL 4TH APRIL 2004

Scientists warn world's waterbirds under threat

The world's waterbird populations have suffered serious declines and reductions are set to continue further unless dramatic conservation measures are taken, a major international conference in Edinburgh will hear today. Research presented at Waterbirds Around the World, which is organised by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Wetlands International and the UK and Dutch governments, indicates that large numbers of species (including many favourite British waterbirds) are decreasing due to human impacts on their wetland habitats and overhunting.

At the conference, which starts today and will focus on global conservation of waterbird flyways, scientists will investigate why 49 per cent of shorebirds such as Snipe, Redshank or Lapwing, have declined across the globe, while only 15 per cent are on the rise. Despite conservation efforts around the world large numbers of migratory waterbirds are declining and many, such as the Northern Bald Ibis, the Spoon-billed Sandpiper and the Slender-billed Curlew are globally threatened with extinction.

Professor Colin Galbraith, Chairman of the Conference, said: "This Conference provides a timely opportunity to take stock of the health of the world's waterbirds at the beginning of a new Millennium. The last 40 years have seen the welcome development of international perspectives in the conservation of migrant waterbirds, but there remain major challenges if we are to reverse declines. This is achievable, but will require shared actions and renewed commitment."

Max Finlayson, President of Wetlands International, said: "Effective conservation of migratory birds will require a concerted international effort, linking wetland sites and continents, based on sound science. This conference provides an opportunity to review our knowledge and to seek new, stronger commitments from governments and institutions to underpin essential monitoring programmes and international flyway agreements."

Waterbirds Around the World will draw over 450 representatives from 90 countries, and aims to review progress in migratory waterbird conservation, 40 years after the first international waterbird conference in St Andrews. The event will
report research into migrant bird species throughout the world and how problems in one part of the globe can impact on bird species in another. Scientists will discuss a broad range of issues - from the satellite technology used to monitor tagged waterbirds on their migrations, to the impacts of climate change on their wetland habitats. They will examine the impact that disease has on waterbirds, and promote initiatives to ensure that any hunting is undertaken sustainably, given the key economic importance of waterbird harvest in many countries.

The event will provide insight into major problem areas experienced in some parts of the globe, such as recent sharp declines throughout Asia-Pacific of the endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper, and the dramatic decline of Oystercatchers and Eider ducks in the Wadden Sea. It will also be a chance for scientists to learn about conservation success stories, such as the rise of the Avocet throughout Western Europe, and how good conservation practices can be shared between countries.

Waterbirds Around the World is held between 3-8 April 2004 at the Edinburgh Conference Centre, Heriott Watt University, Riccarton Campus, Currie Edinburgh EH14 4AS. For more information look up http://www.wetlands.org/GFC/Default.htm. Or www.waderstudygroup.org (Cadiz conclusions) or for interviews or photos of waterbirds contact Sarah Roe, National Press and PR officer, SNH Tel: 0131 446 2270 mobile: 07787 836010 or Saskia Henderikse at Wetlands International on Tel: +31 6 4007 4892

Notes to editors

The first European waterbird conference was held in 1963 in St Andrews, which together with the MAR conference in St Marie de la Mer in France in 1962 marked the beginnings of the modern era of international coordination of waterbird conservation and led to the development of the first modern international Convention on wetland conservation - the Ramsar Convention in 1971.

A flyway is the total area used by species populations throughout the year and their life cycle. Flyways are ecological networks in which sites are inter-connected and inter-dependent. Flyway conservation requires cooperation of people and governments across sites and continents.

Scottish Natural Heritage is the Scottish Executive's statutory advisor on the conservation, enhancement, enjoyment, understanding and sustainable use of the Scotland's natural heritage.

Wetlands International is a leading global non-profit organisation dedicated solely to the crucial work of wetland conservation and sustainable management. Well-established networks of experts and close partnerships with key organisations provide Wetlands International with the essential tools for catalysing conservation activities worldwide. Our activities are based on sound science and have been carried out in over 120 countries, working through 19 offices. Wetlands International plays a crucial role in the development and maintenance of knowledge on the status of global waterbird populations and works with governments and partner organisations across all major flyways to enhance the conservation and management of waterbirds.

A new report by Wetlands International will be launched on 4th April at the conference, detailing the findings of 5 years of results of the Asian Waterbird Census - a volunteer-based waterbird and wetland monitoring scheme. The report covers findings from 1,392 sites in 22 countries. 37 of the 306 species recorded are globally threatened, including the critically endangered Giant Ibis and Siberian Crane. The report presents an analysis of the key threats to internationally important wetlands in Asia. The AWC is supported by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the Convention on Migratory Species and the Japan Fund for the Global Environment. The AWC forms part of the International Waterbird Census (IWC) - the longest running and most comprehensive global biodiversity monitoring programme, coordinated by Wetlands International since 1967.

The IWC and AWC provide reliable information on waterbird movements around the world. This data has been critical in the recent assessment of the possible role of wild birds as vectors of the highly infectious Avian influenza A (H5N1). Wetlands International has provided the FAO with technical advice regarding the response needed to reduce the risks from recent outbreaks. See http://www.fao.org/ag/againfo/subjects/en/health/diseases-cards/avian_recomm.html for further information.

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