Antananarivo, 15 September 2008- New study shows a sharp drop in migratory waterbird populations along main migration routes in Africa and Eurasia.
The report: 'Conservation Status of Migratory Waterbirds in the African-Eurasian Flyways' prepared by Wetlands International for the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA), reveals that of 522 studied migratory waterbird populations on routes across Africa and Eurasia, 40 per cent are in decline.
The report is being presented to delegates from over 80 countries at the Fourth Meeting of the Parties to the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA) in Antananarivo, Madagascar, today.
Simon Delany, Waterbird Conservation Officer at the Netherlands-based headquarters of Wetlands International and principal author of the report, said: "The main causes of declining waterbird numbers along the African-Eurasian Flyways are the destruction and unsustainable exploitation of wetlands, which are largely driven by poorly-planned economic development."
The main causes of population decrease include, infrastructure development, wetland reclamation, increasing pollution and hunting pressure.
These impacts are in many cases compounded by impacts of climate change and associated phenomena, such as increased frequency of droughts, sea-level rise and changes in Arctic tundra habitats.
"Climate change... is likely to affect all ecosystems, but wetlands are especially vulnerable because of their sensitivity to changes in water level and susceptibility to changes in rainfall and evaporation." said Delany.
Sea-level rise threatens coastal and inland wetland areas. These are crucial habitats for millions of migratory waterbirds. Huge numbers of waterbirds also breed in Arctic tundra habitats which too are threatened by climate change.
Migratory waterbirds, and in particular long-distance migrants, are highly vulnerable to environmental changes. To complete their annual life-cycles, they depend upon separate geographic regions in breeding and non-breeding seasons which may be thousands of kilometres apart, as well as a network of stop-over sites along the route.
"International cooperation is essential in protecting the network of sites required by migratory waterbirds. AEWA was put into place by countries to foster such cooperation for migratory waterbirds along the African-Eurasian Flyways. The evidence presented in this report shows that countries will have to have a clear vision as to how to address these challenges and work together to make sure the objectives of this Agreement can be met." said Bert Lenten, the Executive Secretary of AEWA.