From: Alister Doyle, Reuters
Published March 13, 2007 12:00 AM

Waterbirds Threatened, Need Better Flyways, Study Says

OSLO -- Many species of waterbird are in decline because of a loss of wetland habitats and governments need to do more to protect "flyway" migration routes, an international study said on Monday.

"Global actions for the protection of migratory waterbirds are losing the race with economic development," according to the report about birds such as ducks, geese, plovers or sandpipers and based on the work of about 450 experts in 59 nations.

"As a result, many species are rapidly declining," it said.

The report was presented by the Dutch and British governments and Wetlands International and was backed by U.N. agencies and more than a dozen governments including the United States.

"In areas where governments are working to protect sites along important migratory routes, the results are promising," it said. The study said 170 of 614 waterbird species reviewed were now endangered.

It blamed falling bird numbers mainly "on loss and degradation of wetland (and other) habitats". Wetlands are being drained for uses such as farming, roads or towns.

The report, entitled "Waterbirds around the world", urged governments to preserve wetlands, work out recovery plans for threatened species and sign international accords to protect "flyways," or migration routes.

Many species of waterbirds migrate thousands of kilometres, often from breeding sites in the Arctic where they can nest on the ground with little fear of predators. They stop off at wetlands along the flyways to eat and rest.

"Little conservation action is being taken for many globally threatened species," it said. It listed species such as the red crested goose, the milky stork, the sooty albatross and the Baikal teal as endangered.

It said nations in Europe and North America were among those acting to protect wetlands and also praised Argentina and Chile, for instance, for preserving habitats of the ruddy headed goose.

But it criticised South Korea for draining coastal mudflats at Saemangeum that were an important habitat for the spoonbilled sandpiper and Nordmanns greenshank.

The report also said many species were under threat from global warming, blamed by almost all scientists on human burning of fossil fuels. It said there was a need for greater surveillance of diseases, amid worries about bird flu.

Source: Reuters

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