A Review of Migratory Bird Flyways and Priorities for Management


Courtesy of Wetlands International

This document, commissioned by the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), and developed with the CMS Flyways Working Group, outlines the scientific and technical issues for conservation of migratory birds and their habitats, and relevant international instruments, initiatives and processes. It is in three parts namely:

Part 1 (previously Review 1) – a review of CMS and non- CMS existing administrative and management instruments for migratory birds globally.

The first part of the series provides an overview of global flyways; highlights current literature on CMS related flyway based instruments for the conservation of migratory birds; assesses existing CMS and non-CMS instruments and frameworks; evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of flyway instruments; and elaborates on the findings and conclusions regarding coverage of global flyways by existing instruments.

Part 2 (previously Review 2) – an overview of scientific/ technical knowledge of bird flyways and major gaps and conservation priorities.

This part details the modes of migration employed by migratory birds; profiles the status and challenges along the various flyways; areas needing further research to enhanced understanding and knowledge are discussed and finally addresses the priority areas to consider.

Part 3 (previously Review 3) – proposed policy options for flyway conservation / management to feed into the future shape of the CMS.

The third part highlights the various CMS and Non CMS instruments and frameworks; the threats facing migratory species around the globe; and the crucial role that CMS has to play.

Globally, there are more than 30 different international, flyway- based instruments for the conservation of migratory birds. Each category of flyway-based conservation instrument and each individual instrument within a category has its own strengths and weaknesses. The appropriateness and effectiveness of each category and each individual instrument has to be assessed against a set of circumstances that is unique to the flyway, species and conservation challenges it aims to address. Geographical coverage (on paper) is strongest in Africa – Eurasia (particularly Eurasia), Americas (particularly North America) and East Asia – Australasia. In these regions there is an established flyways-based approach to bird conservation that can be traced back over the course of 30 to 50 years.

However on the contrary, geographical coverage (on paper) is weakest in the following regions: Central Pacific, Central Asia (there is a CMS Action Plan for waterbirds that has yet to be implemented; there is also substantial overlap with the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) and the CMS Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Migratory Birds of Prey in Africa- Eurasia) and the Pelagic (open ocean) flyways in the Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean and Southern Ocean.

Coverage of species groups (on paper) is strongest for waterfowl (Anatidae), shorebirds/waders (Scolopacidae), other migratory waterbirds such as divers (loons), grebes, cranes, herons etc., Nearctic-breeding passerines and other landbirds that migrate to the Neotropics for the non-breeding season, and raptors (particularly in Africa-Eurasia).

Furthermore, an analysis of status and trends was carried out for a total of 2,274 CMS-defined migratory species (23 % of the world’s birds). Migratory birds are found in all regions of the world, however, the Americas and Asian regions stand out with more than 1,000 species each.

At a global level, 14 % (317) of the included species are currently considered threatened or near-threatened according to the 2010 IUCN Red List. Since 1988, 53 species have deteriorated in status (sufficiently to be uplisted to higher categories of extinction risk on the IUCN Red List) while only nine species have improved (sufficiently to be downlisted to lower categories).

Analysis of the main threats to migratory species evaluated as threatened and near-threatened on the 2010 IUCN Red List shows that important threats include land-use change, illegal hunting and taking, non-native species, diseases, pollution, climate change, natural system modifications, infrastructure development, human disturbance, fishing, energy production and distribution.

It has become clear that, priority must be given to mainstreaming of species conservation within the broader environment and sustainable development agenda. Instruments for the conservation of migratory bird species – whether intergovernmental or not – are likely to struggle for sufficient attention, capacity and resources unless they are explicitly linked to the wider developing country priorities outlined above. Conservation priorities have been identified that address the key identified threats. Protection of habitats, and the resources they provide, is identified as being of vital importance to migratory birds, and this should be afforded the highest priority of all.

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