Targeted action needed to protect waterbirds

May 1, 2013
Targeted action needed to protect waterbirds
Wetlands are disappearing rapidly worldwide in spite of performing vital functions including flood defence, removal of nutrients and toxicants, and providing humans with essential services such as drinking water, fish stocks and water for agriculture. Credit: Tamas Szekely

( —Researchers from our Biodiversity Lab have identified specific areas around the world where conservation efforts could best be targeted to safeguard inland-breeding waterbirds.

In their new report, the first ever global study of its kind, Laura Williamson and Professor Tamás Székely, analysed data from 471 , focusing on waterbird which breed in inland wetlands. These inland wetland habitats are important for birds and are strongly affected by human activities.

Waterbirds make up around 10 per cent of all bird species and are an important indicator for the health of a wetland ecosystem, including lakes, streams and rivers. The main threats to waterbirds are from , primarily caused by human activities such as land reclamation and development, agriculture, pollution, transportation and energy production.

Their report identifies East Africa as having the highest diversity of waterbirds, but pinpoints coastal China as the location with the greatest numbers of threatened waterbirds listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The orders with the highest proportion of threatened species include grebes, cranes and storks.

By comparing the locations of protected areas with the number of species, this study found that more targeted conservation efforts are required. Whilst areas in Europe and Brazil were generally well protected, India, China, Argentina, Uruguay, Kazakhstan, Central America and Africa are in need of further protection for wetlands and waterbirds.

Commenting on the main findings of the report, Laura Williamson said: "What we see is that in many sites across the world where waterbirds are most diverse, the are unfortunately weakest.

"This global study highlights sites of critical importance for the greatest number of waterbird species possible. Focusing conservation effort in these areas will allow the greatest beneficial impact from limited conservation resources."

Whilst efforts have been made in recent years to protect migratory waterbirds and their migratory path or 'flyway', there has been less focus on non-migratory , which are often under-represented in conservation plans.

Professor Tamás Székely added: "Wetlands are providing essential services for humankind, nevertheless, they are disappearing at an alarming rate. Many countries have lost over 50 per cent of their natural wetlands, and the remaining wetlands are often struggling for survival. Our study highlights the need for more substantial to secure long-term viability of the remaining wetland habitats worldwide."

Explore further: Asian waterbirds stage remarkable comeback

More information: … %2Fs10531-013-0488-2

Related Stories

Asian waterbirds stage remarkable comeback

April 3, 2008

According to a report released today by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), several species of rare waterbirds from Cambodia’s famed Tonle Sap region have staged remarkable comebacks, thanks to a project involving ...

Birds vanishing in the Philippines

January 25, 2011

The number of birds flying south to important wintering grounds in the Philippines has fallen sharply this year, with experts saying the dramatic demise of wetlands and hunting are to blame.

Shorebird numbers crash: survey alarm

April 9, 2008

One of the world's great wildlife spectacles is under way across Australia: as many as two million migratory shorebirds of 36 species are gathering around Broome before an amazing 10,000-kilometre annual flight to their northern ...

Bulgaria, Romania create protected wetlands for birds

April 16, 2013

Bulgaria and Romania on Tuesday signed a deal to set up three wetland areas along their joint 470-kilometre (290-mile) Danube border, protecting pelicans, herons, pygmy cormorants and other birds, the environment ministry ...

Humans lend a hand to critically endangered waterbird

July 27, 2009

Human impact on one of the world's most threatened bird species can be beneficial rather than destructive - and could even save it from extinction - according to counterintuitive new findings by the University of East Anglia ...

Recommended for you

An epigenetic key to unlock behavior change

October 16, 2017

When it comes to behaviour, researchers have moved beyond the "nature versus nurture" debate. It's understood that genes and environment both play a role. However, how they interact at a molecular level to shape behaviour ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.