Friday, May 29, 2009

Migratory wading birds at risk across the Middle East, Africa

Environment News Service: Populations of migratory wading birds in Europe, West Asia and Africa are declining more quickly than ever, and they need better protection of wetlands along their flyways, finds the first comprehensive overview of key sites for these small waterbirds in Europe, West-Asia and Africa. The Wetlands International's Wader Atlas released May 20 in London contains this overview and also shows that there is an incomplete network of protected areas for these birds, especially in Africa and the Middle East.

The product of 10 years of work by thousands of coordinated expert observers in nearly 100 countries, the atlas was funded by the governments of Belgium, the UK and The Netherlands, and a United Nations treaty, the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement.

Waders are small waterbirds such as lapwings, plovers, godwits, curlews and sandpipers as well as larger birds such as flamingoes. Many of them undertake long distance migrations from their Arctic breeding grounds to wintering areas as far away as Southern Africa. Some concentrate in huge numbers at just a few sites, making these wetlands critical for their survival. The European Union has established a comprehensive network of protected areas for waders in Europe under the Birds Directive.

But outside the EU the protection and management of key sites is still inadequate. A string of wetlands concentrated on the western coast of Africa, in the Sahel zone along the Senegal and Niger rivers, around Lake Chad, and in East Africa in the Sudd, along the Rift Valley and eastern coast of Africa, is crucial for the survival of many migratory waders, the atlas shows….

The Makgadikgadi Salt Pans in Botswana are one of the most important breeding sites in Southern Africa for lesser and greater flamingos. Shot by Ed Glickman from Edina, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License

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