Birds show that world is falling short of biodiversity target
In 2002 the world’s governments took the unprecedented step of committing themselves to achieve a significant reduction in the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010.
With two years to go, birds are showing that we are falling far short of the target – and that, far from slowing down, the rate of biodiversity loss is still accelerating.
This is the conclusion of State of the Worlds Birds, a new website and publication from BirdLife International showcased today at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Barcelona, Spain.
“Global change in biodiversity is hard to measure and effective indicators are still in short supply”, said Alison Stattersfield, BirdLife’s Head of Science and lead editor on the State of the Worlds Birds report. “This is where birds can really help, as we know much more about them than for most other animals and plants. Birds provide an accurate and easy to read environmental barometer, allowing us to see clearly the pressures our current way of life are putting on the world’s biodiversity.”
State of the Worlds Birds highlights several indicators that help to measure progress towards the 2010 target. The Red List Index for birds, based on the number and status of threatened species, shows that bird species are slipping faster than ever towards extinction. Other measures, including the Wild Bird Index for Europe, highlight rapid erosion around the world in the populations of more common and widespread birds, including songbirds, birds of prey, waterbirds and many migrant species. Initial results from monitoring of key sites, the Important Bird Areas, shows that their condition continues to deteriorate, though, encouragingly, more conservation responses are being put in place.
“Birds provide an accurate and easy to read environmental barometer, allowing us to see clearly the pressures our current way of life are putting on the world’s biodiversity” —Alison Stattersfield, BirdLife
“Overall, the rate of deterioration has been speeding up since our last global assessment in 2004,” says Alison Stattersfield. “The accelerating decline in relatively common and widespread birds is especially alarming and can be linked to ever-increasing pressures on natural habitats. Our data suggest that recent policy changes such as the drive towards producing biofuels are damaging biodiversity and seriously undermining efforts to meet the 2010 target.”
Not all the news is bad. A companion report, Critically Endangered birds: A global audit, also showcased today at the IUCN meeting, shows that 16 bird extinctions have been prevented in recent years through conservation action. Eighteen Critically Endangered birds have also now qualified for lower categories of threat.
“It is clear that conservation action can and does work”, said Dr Leon Bennun, BirdLife’s Director of Science, Policy and Information. “What we need is commitment, from decision-makers and not just conservationists. It’s time to recognize the real value of biodiversity and for Governments to honour the commitments they have made to invest in its conservation. Given the enormous benefits that biodiversity provides to people, the investment needed to look after it represents an absolute bargain.”
BirdLife’s State of the world’s birds website provides the most up-to-date information on bird indicators, threatened birds and Important Bird Areas, and a searchable database of carefully documented and referenced case studies expanding on and supporting the overall analysis. It is a flexible and authoritative resource for decision-makers, conservation practitioners and researchers looking for information on the condition of the world’s birds, the pressures on them and the responses needed.
“It’s time to recognize the real value of biodiversity and for Governments to honouor the commitments they have made to invest in its conservation” —Dr Leon Bennun, BirdLife
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Additional notes for editors:
BirdLife International is a global alliance of conservation organisations working in more than 100 countries and territories who, together, are the leading authority on the status of birds, their habitats and the issues and problems affecting them.
State of the World's Birds examines what the best-known group of living things, birds, can tell us about the state of biodiversity, the pressures upon it and the solutions that are being, or should be, put in place. It is published every four years by BirdLife International. The 2008 theme is ‘Indicators of our changing world’.
This report is a brief summary of the information available on BirdLife’s State of the World’s Birds website. Using the most up-to date analyses, it outlines why birds and biodiversity are important, what we know about the changing state of the world’s birds, why birds are declining and what can be done to improve their status. It presents and lists a small sample of the case studies providing evidence for these messages and examples of BirdLife’s work.
For more detailed information visit BirdLife’s State of the World’s Birds website at birdlife.org/sowb. Click the following links to download the full report:
Rare birds are getting rarer
At present one in eight of the world’s birds – 1,226 species - are Globally Threatened according to the IUCN Red List. Of these, 190 face an imminent risk of extinction . “The threat of extinction is real. Over the last three centuries 153 bird species are believed to have been lost forever – three species have vanished since 2000 alone”, warned Dr Bennun .
Birds help measure global progress towards biodiversity targets.
Globally agreed goals, such as the 2010 target to ‘achieve a significant reduction in the current rate of loss of biodiversity’, require a global monitoring system. Birds are at the forefront of producing such a monitoring system because they are found everywhere and are well monitored compared to other groups.
The 2010 Biodiversity Indicators Partnership (2010 BIP) is a global initiative to further develop and promote indicators for the consistent monitoring and assessment of biodiversity. BirdLife International is one of over forty organisations working to support the regular delivery of the 2010 biodiversity target indicators at the global and national levels.
In 2007, the Red List Index, which was initially designed and tested by BirdLife, was selected to be the basis of a new Millennium Development Goal (MDG) indicator, known as the ‘Proportion of species threatened with extinction’. Through such processes, birds will continue to play a vital role in monitoring progress towards conserving biodiversity in the years to come .
Protecting Important Bird Areas really helps
Important Bird Areas (IBAs) form a worldwide network of sites for the conservation of birds. BirdLife and its Partners have identified over 10,000 IBAs to date. When complete, this global network is likely to cover some 10 million km2 (c.7% of the world’s land surface) identified on the basis of about 40% of the world’s bird species.
The effective conservation of these sites will contribute substantially to the protection of the world's biological diversity. While formal protection often remains the preferred option, other more innovative approaches can also be highly effective. These range from maximising the engagement of local communities to ensuring effective application of safeguard policies and Environmental Impact Assessment for development projects. In all cases a commitment to long-term engagement is the key to success .
Birds are important to people’s livelihoods
Conserving biodiversity and eliminating poverty are linked global challenges. The poor, particularly the rural poor, depend on nature for many elements of their livelihoods, including food, fuel, shelter and medicines. Working alongside people who will ultimately benefit from conservation can build social capital, improve accountability and reduce poverty. In contrast, excluding people from conservation actions can increase conflict, resentment and poverty.
Understanding how people experience poverty locally is essential in identifying how biodiversity conservation can help improve their livelihoods. BirdLife Partners have worked with communities to develop site-specific solutions to the problems they have identified. Examples include supporting agricultural development around Kabira National Park, Burundi, to help reduce pressure on the park’s land and resources, developing ecotourism to generate income at San Marcos, Bolivia, and improving management and marketing of non-timber forest products in Palas Valley, Pakistan.
BirdLife International Partners are increasingly engaging with diverse policy issues relevant to the conservation of biodiversity. Partners are tackling policy sectors that deal directly with biodiversity (such as forests, wildlife trade and the marine environment), but significantly they are also addressing policy sectors that have a major indirect impact, or cut across the other sectors (such as poverty reduction, conservation finance and tourism) .
More conservation funding is urgently needed
Global conservation investment still falls far short of what is needed. Conservation financing is rarely sustained and often not directed where it can do most good. The biggest shortfalls are in developing countries—often biodiversity rich but economically poor. Those who benefit from biodiversity as a global good must contribute more to looking after it. Effective biodiversity conservation is, in fact, easily affordable, requiring relatively trivial sums at the scale of the global economy.
In 2005, the African protected area network received around US $300 million, less than 40% of the funding required for an expanded and effectively managed system. Making up the difference would go a long way to ensuring the conservation of 90% of the continent’s irreplaceable biodiversity—in global terms an absolute bargain. In Nigeria, for example, the annual appropriation for protected area management is a small fraction of the budgeted requirements, and what can actually be spent is even less .
Links to case studies
Supporting case studies may be found in the State of the Worlds Birds website, along with BirdLife news stories, BirdLife Programme pages, BirdLife datazone factsheets, BirdLife Partner publications and BirdLife staff experience. To find out more about declines in ‘common’ birds and other issues mentioned in the press release, click the hyperlinks on the text below:
3. Twenty North American common birds have more than halved in number in the last four decades - The National Audubon Society (BirdLife in the US).
9. Common migratory species such as Eurasian Wryneck Jynx torquilla, Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe, Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus and Common Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos are silently disappearing
10. Other widespread species suffering significant declines include Evening Grosbeak Coccothraustes vespertinus (78%), Northern Pintail Anas acuta (77%) and Boreal Chickadee Parus hudsonica (73%) - The National Audubon Society (BirdLife in the US).
The compilation and publication of the State of the World’s Birds report and website were generously supported by the Aage V. Jensen Charity Foundation and the Darwin Initiative.
BirdLife wishes to acknowledge and thank its Founder Patrons for their support of the Science Programme that generated the report. Many of the data underlying the analyses of threatened birds and Important Bird Areas were provided by the BirdLife Partnership and a wider expert network who contribute to BirdLife’s Globally Threatened Bird Forums.