Slimbridge (UK) - Widespread declines in birds that spend most of their lives at sea are alarming conservationists. Seven species of seaduck that spend the northern winter in the Baltic – a key non-breeding area – have dropped in number by up to 65% in 15 years, without any clear explanation.
Declines have also been found around British coasts, with long-tailed duck, velvet scoter and red-breasted merganser among those hardest hit. In North America the trend continues with several seaduck populations significantly down, among them black scoters, white-winged scoters and surf scoters.
Photo: Long-tailed duck, Wolfgang Wander
“These birds just seem to have gone missing,” said Richard Hearn, Head of Species Monitoring at the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust and Chair of the IUCN/SSC/Wetlands International Duck Specialist Group.
“The scale of the declines in Europe is very surprising and largely unexpected. Most of these species remain relatively numerous but if their numbers continue to fall at these rates, some of these species could soon be in serious trouble.”
A report published today, Waterbird Populations and Pressures in the Baltic Sea, shows that the number of waterbirds wintering in the Baltic fell overall by 40%, from 7.44 million to 4.41 million. The declines were revealed by two censuses, staged from 1992-3 and 2007-9.
Concerns have been reinforced by monitoring elsewhere showing much smaller numbers of seaducks in important British sites such as the Moray Firth and Clyde Estuary, and in the Netherlands.
Richard Hearn as Chair of the IUCN/SSC/Wetlands International Duck Specialist Group is urging European seaduck experts to meet in early 2012 to draw up an action plan to tackle the problem. He hopes that measures will win backing from EU policy makers, particularly since the global red list status of some seaduck species may soon be raised by the IUCN.
Report: A brief overview of the status of European seaducks and actions required for their conservation
WWT Website: http://www.wwt.org.uk/news/all-news/2011/11/conservation/thousands-of-seaducks-go-missing/
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