Waterbird Population Estimates - Fifth Edition


Courtesy of Wetlands International

The purpose and structure of this booklet

This booklet aims to present the current knowledge of the population estimates, trends and conservation status of waterbird populations in different parts of the world in 2012. It is a summary version of the fifth edition of the Waterbird Population Estimates (WPE5) which has been published as a web-based, open access, interactive database (wpe.wetlands.org). The online database was launched at the Ramsar COP11 in Bucharest, Romania, in July 2012.

The first section provides a brief background of the methodology used for the analyses. This is followed by a section highlighting the key findings in different categories such as the occurrence in the six Ramsar regions, families of waterbirds, population sizes, population trends and IUCN Red List 2012 status. Finally, a section on future priorities for development of information on waterbird estimates and trends is presented. This should be used to guide and implement future conservation of the world’s waterbirds.

Key findings

  • The Asia Ramsar administrative region has the largest proportion of the world’s waterbird populations, followed by Africa and the Neotropics (Central and South America), while Europe, North America and Oceania have relatively fewer populations.
  • The general conservation status of waterbird populations is most favourable in North America and Europe which have relatively strong legislative and administrative frameworks for species and habitat conservation.
  • Waterbird population status is least favourable in Africa, the Neotropics and particularly Asia, where 50% of known populations are decreasing or extinct and only 20% are increasing.
  • Overall, 3% of the known waterbird populations are considered to be extinct, while the trends of 38% of the populations remain unknown. Of all extant populations, 38% are declining and only 20% are increasing, while 39% are stable and 4% are considered to be fluctuating.
  • Families with relatively high proportion of decreasing populations include Ducks Geese and Swans, Rails, Crakes and allies, Storks, Grebes, Ibises and Spoonbills, Cranes, Coursers, Pratincoles, and Jacanas.
  • Families with the highest proportion of increasing populations are found among the Flamingoes, Pelicans, Herons, Egrets and Gulls, Terns and Skimmers. The Cranes and the Ducks, Geese and Swans families also have a higher than average proportion of increasing populations.
  • Populations with no estimates primarily belong to the Rails, Crakes and allies (53% of all populations) followed by Herons and Egrets (16%) and Gulls, Terns and Skimmers (8%).
  • Twenty four per cent (212) of all 871 waterbird species are categorised as globally threatened in the IUCN Red List 2012, including 28 that are Critically Endangered.

Future Priorities

  • Further improvement in the coverage of up-to-date estimates and trends of world’s waterbird populations is necessary to maintain a global overview.
  • A need to strengthen the capacity for monitoring of waterbirds that provides the basis for waterbird estimates and trends.
  • An improved linkage of the WPE to global Conventions and Flyway Initiatives.
  • Presentation of maps of waterbird populations to be linked to the global expansion of the Critical Site Network Tool.

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