New initiative launched to create climate resilient wetlands for waterbirds and communities

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Bonn, Germany – A new initiative to identify and restore critical wetlands for waterbirds flying between Europe and Africa that are vulnerable to climate change was launched by Wetlands International at the occasion of the African Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA) conference. The four-year initiative will demonstrate community-based restoration in Mali and Ethiopia. These examples will be used to further increase the resilience of waterbird populations and people at the local, national and international levels. An animated video featuring the goals and approach of the initiative premiered.

Millions of waterbirds fly thousands of kilometres between Europe and Africa each year in search of food and good places to breed. In order to ensure the survival of these migratory waterbirds, Wetlands International and several partners are launching a new initiative to identify and protect the critical network of wetlands that are increasingly vulnerable to a changing climate and unsustainable activities.

Wetlands International CEO Jane Madgwick stated, “Wetlands, fed by seasonal rains and rivers act as lifelines for waterbirds and people across the Sahel of Africa. They are vital oases and refuge points, in an otherwise vast, dry landscape. As pressures on these sites increase, due to climate change and human use, we aim to better safeguard them for the long term.”

Launch and animated video premiere

Wetlands International launched the initiative during the 6th Meeting of Parties for the Africa Eurasian Waterbird Agreement, and was joined by partner AEWA and representatives of the German government who are providing funding.

Christiane Paulus, Head of the Directorate “Nature Conservation” at the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, emphasised that, “This project is an excellent example of how the goals of various multilateral agreements can be met and converted into action on the ground. It facilitates the implementation of AEWA resolutions; it supports ecosystems and the local communities and economies that depend on them to better adapt to climate change – one of the UNFCCC goals; and it contributes to the goals of the CBD such as the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services. I am convinced that it will be able to make a real difference”.

Sergey Dereliev, Technical Officer at the UNEP-AEWA Secretariat  stated, “With this project, Wetlands International and its partners will help to put into practice the principles of climate change adaptation the AEWA Parties have agreed upon. It will also provide better insight into the possible impacts of climate change on the network of critical sites in our flyway and prioritise our future actions.”

To share the goals and approach of the initiative with a wider audience an animated video was produced:

From local restoration to international action for wetlands

Waterbirds depend on a network of key wetlands across their annual migratory route. These same wetlands are critical to the livelihoods of local communities. To ensure that this wetland network remains complete, we will assess the vulnerability of Critical Sites to climate change. At important sites in Mali and Ethiopia we will initiate community-based wetland restoration projects to increase the resilience of both waterbirds and local communities. These pilot projects will serve as examples for other communities to follow – and inform governments on how they can adopt policies to better adapt to climate change by sustainably managing their wetlands.

The experience gained through the project will inform policy development and the implementation of existing environmental agreements such as AEWA and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. Ensuring that a comprehensive flyway network is established and maintained is a key goal of AEWA to ensure the survival of migratory waterbirds. However, practical implementations of these measures is lacking, particularly in Africa.

The International Climate Initiative

We acknowledge the International Climate Initiative (IKI) for funding this initiative. IKI emphases climate change mitigation, adaption to the impacts of climate change, conserving natural carbon sinks/REDD+ and the protection of biological diversity. The German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) supports this initiative on the basis of a decision adopted by the German Bundestag.