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Migratory waterbird populations in decline in Europe

Migratory waterbird populations in decline in Europe

Migratory waterbird populations in decline in Europe
September 15, 2008

41 percent of 522 migratory waterbird populations on the routes across Africa and Eurasia show decreasing trends, reports a new study released at the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement meeting in Antananarivo, Madagascar.

Waterbirds using Western and Central Asian Flyways are even worse off — 55 percent of populations with known trends are currently declining.

The report, titled "Conservation Status of Migratory Waterbirds in the African-Eurasian Flyways" and prepared by Wetlands International, says that habitat destruction is the leading factor behind the decline.

“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," said Simon Delany, the principal author of the report. "Climate change, also caused by unsustainable economic development, is probably making things worse. It 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."

Climate change is a risk to birds and wetland habitats on multiple scales. Increasing storm intensity and expanding deserts make bird migration more hazardous, while rising sea levels threaten to swamp wetlands that serve as breeding, resting, and feeding grounds. Changes in the Arctic may further disrupt food supplies.

Wetlands International urges greater protection of critical habitats to help birds better adapt to climate change.

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