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Climate change shifting wintering grounds of waterbirds and presents new challenges for their conservation


A newly published study shows that three species of waterbirds (tufted duck, goosander and goldeneye) are shifting their wintering grounds northwards along the North-West Europe flyway in response to rising temperatures. Rising temperatures due to climate change and shifting ranges for wintering waterbirds have profound implications for the conservation of site networks along the flyways and highlights the importance of adaptive management approaches.

This shift was evident from an analysis of annual waterbird counts conducted under the framework of the International Waterbird Census (IWC). The researchers drew this conclusion by examining temperature data and IWC counts gathered from the same areas of Europe over the last three decades. Early winter temperature in the north eastern part of the winter range (south Finland) increased by about 3.8C between 1980 and 2010.

IWC citizen science

The IWC is one of the world’s longest running and largest citizen science programmes, with tens of thousands of volunteers providing data for over 40 years. Wetlands International coordinates the IWC programme and co-authored this article together with a number of IWC national coordinators, Wetlands International-IUCN Specialist Group Chairs and the lead author Dr. Aleksi Lehikoinen from the Finnish Museum of Natural History.                                          

Tufted duck by Szabolcs Nagy

According to co-author Tom Langendoen of Wetlands International, "this is a prime example of the importance of the International Waterbird Census and the networks of both sites and people it represents. Without such networks researchers and decision-makers would be not able to interpret the results of their monitoring activities in the flyway context." ‘Networking for migratory birds’ was fittingly the theme of the recent World Migratory Bird Day. Wetlands International is working with a range of partners under the African-Eurasian Waterbird Monitoring Partnership to develop monitoring capacity across the entire African-Eurasian Flyway.

For more information:

The study was reported by the BBC, including an interview with Wetlands International-IUCN Duck Specialist Group Chair and co-author Dr. Richard Hearn, and is available through the journal Global Change Biology (subscription required).

A map from the study (early winter temperature in North Europe) showing the mean early winter temperature change in southern Finland is available here.


Tom Langendoen
Wetlands International
E-mail: tom.langendoen @
Tel. +31 (0) 318 660 921

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