More than 90 per cent of the world’s migratory birds are inadequately protected due to poorly coordinated conservation around the world.
A new study titled “Protected areas and global conservation of migratory birds” published in the journal Science by a team of researchers which include Claire Runge, James Watson, Stuart Butchart, Jeffrey Hanson, Hugh Possingham and Richard Fuller have blamed world governments for failing to provide adequate habitat protection for nearly 90% of the world’s migratory birds.
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Led by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED), the researchers say several migratory birds are at the edge of extinction because of the loss of habitats along the paths of their annual flights across lands and oceans.
Using data provided by BirdLife International, the bird researchers were able to establish that migratory birds suffer more habitat loss as they migrate across Indian, China, sections of South America and parts of Africa. To this end, the birds enjoy conservation efforts in the protected areas of one country but suffer same in another country.
Lead author Dr. Claire Runge of CEED and the University of Queensland (UQ) notes that “More than half of migratory bird species traveling the world’s main flyways have suffered serious population declines in the past 30 years. This is due mainly to unequal and ineffective protection across their migratory range and the places they stop to refuel along their routes.”
Runge explained that annual migratory birds need sufficient place to breed, rest, and obtain food in several geographic locations across its yearly flight cycle, and that an assurance of these necessities in one geographic zone and a lack of it in another zone could disrupt the life of these birds and set a whole species at risk.
Co-author of the study, Dr. James Watson of UQ and CEED noted that when seasons change, some of these migratory birds travel over 10,000 kilometers across land and sea to seek refuge and food in another part of the world – for example, the Bar-tailed Godwits; white the Arctic Terns travel a distance of the moon from the Earth at least thrice in their lifetimes.
Others that make equally longer trips are the Sooty Shearwater of the Falkland Islands or Islas Malvinas which travel 64,000 kilometers to the Arctic, and the Blackpoll Warbler which flies from Canada to South America for three days without a stop for rest or food.
The researchers were able to show that out of the 1,451 migratory bird species, about 1,324 have insufficient protected habitats along their flight path; 18 species have no protection where they breed along their journey, and two species have not protection anywhere along their annual flight paths.
“Establishing new reserves to protect the unprotected sites - and more effectively managing all protected areas for migratory species – is critical to ensure the survival of these iconic species,” said Dr. Butchart, Head of Science at BirdLife International and a part of the research.
Associate Professor Richard Fuller of CEED thinks these migratory birds would have a better chance to survive anywhere in the world they go if all countries would take up habitat conservation as a primary task, or the efforts of one country would be destroyed by the neglect of other countries the birds visit on their annual journeys around the world.