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New web-tool shows critical situation for migratory waterbirds


The Hague, the Netherlands. A new website providing information on thousands of wetlands and hunderds of waterbird populations shows the difficult situation for the migratory waterbirds of Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Central Asia.

A new website launched today by Wetlands International, BirdLife International and the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) has revealed major gaps in the protection of many critical sites used by migratory waterbirds. A staggering one-third of the critical wetlands across Africa the Middle East, Europe and Central Asia lack any protection status. This means that the conservation status of many migratory waterbirds is at risk of further decline.

Photo: CSN Tool at work - for the Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa), identifying flyway population boundaries and critical breeding, staging and non-breeding sites

Waterbirds and networks of wetlands

Waterbirds travel vast distances, crossing many countries and often entire continents during their annual migration cycles along ‘flyways’ that connect breeding, staging and non-breeding areas. Maintaining a network of healthy wetland sites is therefore key to maintaining healthy waterbird populations and conserve critical wetlands along these flyways.

Photo: a Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea) in its stunning breeding plumage. (by György Szimuly)

Migratory waterbirds – like waders, terns and geese - require an unbroken chain of wetlands to complete their annual life-cycles. These same wetlands also benefit people by providing clean water and opportunities for fishing, agriculture, recreation and tourism. However, wetlands are amongst the world’s most vulnerable ecosystems and, consequently, an alarming 42% of the migratory waterbirds across Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Central Asia are in decline. As now demonstrated by combining different information databases, many critical wetlands are without official protection.

The web-based tool

The new ‘Critical Site Network (CSN)’ Tool provides comprehensive information on 561 populations and 294 waterbird species from 3,020 wetland sites. It has been designed to help people to easily obtain information on the most important sites for migratory waterbirds, both at the national and international level.

Photo: the Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) in flight (by Neil Fifer)

The following information sources are used for the tool.

-       World Bird Database (WBDB) is managed by BirdLife International and stores information on all of the world’s bird species and the key sites identified for their conservation (Important BirdAreas - IBAs).

-       International Waterbird Census (IWC) Database is maintained by Wetlands International and includes over 25,000 sites of importance to waterbirds. It contains the most complete waterbird count data available in the African-Eurasian region and other flyways.

-       Ramsar Sites Information Service (RSIS) provides data on wetlands designated as Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, generally called Ramsar Sites. Wetlands International manages the database for the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

-      World Database on Protected Areas (WDBPA) provides the most comprehensive dataset on protected areas worldwide and is managed by UNEP-WCMC in partnership with the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas and the World Database on Protected Areas Consortium.

Wings Over Wetlands (WOW) Project

The CSN Tool has been jointly developed by Wetlands International, BirdLife International and the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP–WCMC) in the framework of the UNEP-GEF Wings Over Wetlands (WOW) Project, funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), German Government and several other partners and donors. WOW is the largest international waterbird and wetland conservation initiative ever undertaken in the African-Eurasian region.  

The following information sources are used for the tool.

This web-based tool will be made public on 14 June 2010 (13:00 GMT) and will be accessible from this webpage:


Click here for a longer version of the press release.



Launch of the CSN-tool / focal point for all questions:

Florian Keil, Information Officer, UNEP/AEWA Secretariat & WOW Project

Tel: +49 (0) 228 8152451, Mobile: +49 (0)151 14701633, E-mail:


CSN Tool Development Team:

Szabolcs Nagy, Senior Biodiversity Officer, Wetlands International

Tel: +31 (0) 318 660935, E-mail:


Contacts in the organisations involved:

BirdLife International:

Nick Askew, Communications Officer

Tel: +44 (0)1223 279809,


Ramsar Secretariat:

Sandra Hails, CEPA Programme Officer, Rasmar Secretariat

Tel: +41 22 9990176, EMail:


Wetlands International:

Alex Kaat, Communications and Advocacy Manager

Mobile: +31 (0)6 50601917, E-mail:

Press contact

Communications and Advocacy Department