Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Waterbird conservation status

An EU programme analysed 30-year regional changes to waterbird numbers worldwide. Results determined the conservation status of nearly 500 species; some are increasing in certain areas, but declining in others.
Waterbird conservation status
Biodiversity conservation programmes are extremely important, yet limited resources necessitate certain prioritisation. Species endangered with extinction are most important, although such risk is often difficult to determine due to lack of abundance data in some regions.

The EU-funded PRESERVATION (Predictive ecology of global species extinction risk for conservation) project aimed to develop and test predictive models of extinction danger. The undertaking focused on waterbirds because global population and habitat data are available for most species. Additionally, waterbird data offers an opportunity to estimate the regional effects of various extinction threats and to highlight species at particular risk.

Researchers obtained waterbird-count data for four continental regions. Wetlands International supplied data for three and the remainder came from the North American Christmas Bird Count. In total, the project analysed over three million post-1983 records concerning 487 species from nearly 30 000 locations in 132 countries. Data concerning a subset of 461 bird species proved suitable for analysis using the project's novel hierarchical Bayesian model. Analysis illustrated changes to the global distributions of the species subset.

For certain species, population growth rates vary considerably across their geographic ranges. For example, particular birds increasing in Europe and North America have declined elsewhere since 1990; others may have declined only in particular areas, or globally. No general patterns were evident. Such results indicate the importance of considering intra-species variation in population changes.

Analysis also revealed the population status of certain critically endangered species, plus 14 other endangered and 22 vulnerable bird types.

Results identified five regions as having particularly serious waterbird losses, largely overlooked in previous assessments. Reasons for the declines primarily include habit loss and hunting in bird stopover sites. In contrast, waterbird populations are generally increasing in Europe and North America, presumably due to conservation efforts.

The PRESERVATION project's results inform conservation practice at local and global scales, and support several major international bodies with much-needed data. As a result, conservation efforts may more effectively target priority species.

Related information


Waterbird, conservation, biodiversity, extinction, preservation
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