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Conserving wetland birds for 50 years: Let’s make it count!

Published on:
  • Species
  • Wetland values, status and trends

To mark the 50th count of the International Waterbird Census (IWC), Wetlands International has launched a year-long campaign “Let’s make it count” in partnership with its national and international IWC partners, volunteers and governments. With this campaign Wetlands International wants to raise the bar and increase the number of important wetland sites covered by the annual count, and ensure the latest and most up-to-date information about waterbirds is available to support conservation action worldwide. The IWC was launched 50 years ago and has become one of the most valuable biodiversity monitoring programmes in the world. This programme  supports conservation and management of wetlands and waterbirds in all the world’s flyways. We need your help to make this special year count for waterbirds and their conservation!

The International Waterbird Census is one of the longest running citizen-science waterbird counts in the world. It covers all waterbirds, including threatened species and a wide range of internationally and nationally important freshwater and coastal wetlands.

Every year in January and February counters record the numbers of waterbirds across several thousand sites in 143 countries, with between 30 and 40 million waterbirds counted each year around the world. So far, the census has supported the identification of almost 5 million km2  of critically important areas for waterbirds. That is an area roughly half the size of Europe. Information from the census contributes to regular assessments of nearly 900 waterbird species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and Wetlands International’s Waterbird Population Estimates. This helps direct conservation action and alerts us to changes in the status of waterbird populations.

The IWC provides us with the scientific basis of actions for waterbird conservation. Without data, no action will be taken,” points out Kaori Tsujita, of the Japanese Ministry of the Environment and IWC National Coordinator. The census serves as the sole national-scale waterbird monitoring scheme in many countries. It has helped identify, protect and monitor the recovery of species in decline or threatened species such as the Red Knot Calidris canutus in the Neotropics and East Asian populations of Baikal Teal Sibirionetta formosa and Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor, as well as those that are currently increasing, including some European goose populations.

The IWC has helped designate almost 1 million km2 of wetlands, an area about the size of Egypt, as Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention, based on their importance for waterbirds.  The census also supports identification of national and locally important wetlands around the world that are being designated, protected and better managed.  Well managed wetlands are not just important for waterbirds, but also deliver many services to people, such as livelihood options and flood protection. The census motivates thousands of people to get out and enjoy wetlands and is also a powerful tool to raise awareness among the public and decision makers about the beauty and value of waterbirds and wetlands worldwide.

Working with migratory birds, many of which fly thousands of kilometres per year, the census is closely linked to local, global and international partnerships and cooperation. These include the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement, the East Asian – Australasian Flyway Partnership, the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network and Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs).  But, maybe the most important driving force behind the network are the national coordinators and the thousands of volunteers doing the counts.

The event of the 50th count is an opportunity to take stock of many achievements and to stimulate more action for wetlands and waterbirds worldwide. Wetlands International is catalysing a year-long global campaign starting in January 2016, to inspire and engage stakeholders in all flyways.  It seeks to work with and promote national and local efforts to promote the annual counts, raise awareness and take conservation action. Information about how to participate is available on the campaign page.

For more information:

Wetlands International: Taej Mundkur, [email protected]; Tel +31614987324. This press release is also available in Spanish.

About Wetlands International

The mission of Wetlands International is to safeguard and restore wetlands for people and nature. Wetlands International is an independent, non-profit organisation, active in around 100 countries, which works through a network of partners and experts to achieve its goals. We are driven by the knowledge that safeguarding and restoring wetlands is urgent and vital for water security, biodiversity, climate regulation, sustainable development and human health.