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Migratory Species experts meet to confront challenges in the Americas


Washington, D.C. - Representatives from the Convention on Migratory Species, Ramsar Convention, UNEP, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Birdlife International, the GEF Secretariat, International Crane Foundation, and Wetlands International met to discuss several Global projects on Migratory Species. Specific to the Western Hemisphere Migratory Species Initiative (WHMSI) a project entitled: Conservation of globally important migratory species and the critical habitats needed to complete their lifecycles within the Americas is under design.

Migratory species are excellent indicators of large-scale ecosystem health and landscape integrity. Moreover, because of the large distances they travel and sensitivity to minor ecological changes at sites across their established routes, migratory species are most likely to be affected by climate change and offer a glimpse into how ecosystems are changing.

Photo: the representatives, including Taej Mundkur (far right) of Wetlands International

There are already well developed protocols for monitoring a variety of migratory species and their lifecycles, and the ecological requirements of many species are fairly well-known. The management approach however, needed to successfully address threats to different populations of migratory species, is highly complex and requires careful collaboration among the entire network of an individual species’ range. 

Production systems and economic growth in Latin America have been built upon resource depletion and low priority has been given to the environment in national priorities and development strategies. This has resulted in the establishment of weak and poorly staffed environmental institutions at multiple levels, leading to uneven capacity and limited skills to truly manage migratory species and the ecological complexes of which they are part in a holistic and coordinated fashion. 

Intervention is needed

Without the proposed intervention the ongoing degradation of sites, resource depletion and associated decline of healthy viable populations of migratory species and associated biodiversity loss will continue unabated. The lack of international and national capacity to manage, coordinate and cooperate in flyway planning and management will persist, in particular in specific sub-regions. This will lead to a gradual reduction in the viability of certain flyway routes and the loss of certain globally-significant species that are dependent on them as well as the availability of key indicator species to gauge the effects of and implement measures to mitigate the impact of climate change.

Photo: Brown pelicans on a beach in San Antero, Caribbean coast of Colombia. By Sander Carpay

The Americas have not benefited altogether from similar programmatic models which have been successfully implemented in other areas of the world (i.e.; through the GEF-funded and UNEP-implemented Wings Over Wetlands and Siberian Crane projects). These initiatives have clearly demonstrated the value and effectiveness of such multi-scale and multi-pronged approaches to migratory species conservation and habitat management.

It is clear that immediate corrective action is needed specifically across the Americas to ultimately reverse this disturbing trend of declines of many of the long distance migrants (such as the Red Knot Calidris canutus rufa and Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres) and to promote a critical transition to stronger conservation management and sustainable development across the hemisphere.

Barrier to conservation policies & practices

At the present time, the major barrier to developing and implementing biodiversity conservation policies and management practices within the Americas is the lack of demand-driven planning tools, inadequate knowledge at all levels, shortage of trained personnel and weak institutions in areas where collaborative coordinated measures are most needed.

Special role in migratory species initiatives

Traditionally, UNEP has played a special role in migratory species initiatives and the GEF is one of the few mechanisms available for supporting these types of projects. The necessary funds to execute such a strategic-level program and address these root causes are only available from a few other donors in the region and are not sufficient to comprehensively address the problems on a meaningful scale. The combination of these interventions alongside those from the GEF both increases the levels of funding to achieve a strategic flyway scale solution and provides the international basis on which it can be built.

Goal of the project

The goal of this four-year project is to build upon and consolidate the expertise of existing WHMSI and other regional migratory species efforts to significantly enhance and up-scale conservation efforts throughout the Americas by improving conservation planning, strengthening institutional and human capacity, and nurturing political awareness, commitment and cooperation at all levels. This programmatic approach will be applied regionally, but more importantly along the network of critical sites for migratory species in a collaborative and coordinated manner. 

Project components of conservation of globally important migratory species and the critical habitats needed to complete their lifecycles within the Americas include:

• Supporting conservation planning and decision making for migratory species and their habitats in the Americas;

• Mainstreaming of migratory species-related issues and priorities at all levels;

• Enhancing institutional collaboration and networking to support migratory species conservation;

• Building professional capacity for more enhanced and better coordinated migratory species conservation and management of their habitats; and

• Demonstrating practical collaborative conservation approaches along specific migratory routes of migratory species.

For more information:

Taej Mundkur

+31 318 660 940

Press contact

Communications and Advocacy Department