On 19 July, the Luxembourg Minister Delegate for Sustainable Development and Infrastructure, Marco Schank signed two CMS Memoranda of Understanding; one concerning conservation measures for the Aquatic Warbler (Acrocephalus paludicola), the rarest songbird in continental Europe, and the other for migratory birds of prey in Africa and Eurasia.
The signing ceremony took place in the presence of Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, Executive Secretary of UNEP/CMS and Borja Heredia, CMS Scientific Officer as well as a representative of the Natur-a Lëtzebuerger Vulleschutzliga, Fondation Héllet fir d’Natur and BirdLife Luxemburg.
The Aquatic Warbler is the rarest migratory songbird of Europe, and the only globally threatened passerine bird found in mainland Europe. Once widespread throughout Europe, the Aquatic Warbler has undergone a dramatic decline in the course of the 20th century mainly as a consequence of the drainage of the wetland habitats on which it depends, with the species disappearing from many sites and countries where it previously existed.
The international community responded to the decline of the species by adopting the CMS agreement in 2003. It plays a role in linking conservation action in Europe, mainly held in the context of EU legislation and programmes, with action in other parts of the range, notably the migratory and wintering range in Africa.
At its recent meeting of the signatories, the geographical scope of the agreement was extended to include 7 new countries including Luxembourg. The songbird uses Luxembourg as a stepping stone during its migration from Belarus and Poland, via the Iberian Peninsula to its wintering grounds in Djuj National Par in Senegal. In the Luxembourg Nature Reserve of Schlamwiss, some birds are trapped, weighed, measured and ringed to track their migration.
The CMS agreement provides the basis for governments, NGOs and scientists to work together to safeguard the Aquatic Warbler and its habitat. On a global scale the Aquatic Warbler is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List (International Union for Conservation of Nature). It is listed on CMS Appendix I and has been designated for concerted action. It is also listed on Annex I of EU Birds Directive, and Appendix II of the Bern Convention.
The Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Birds of Prey in Africa and Eurasia concerns in particular the protection of raptors as top predators, which ensure ecosystem health. Raising awareness of threats such as the impact of chemicals facing raptors will therefore not only benefit the ecosystems upon which they depend, but also other species sharing their habitat including humans.
It is an ambitious instrument covering 130 range states in three continents, and more than 70 species of birds of prey. Growing concerns and evidence of the poor conservation status of many species of raptors in Africa-Eurasia were the main drivers for the conclusion of this instrument. A study undertaken in 2005 showed an alarming rate that 50% of migratory birds of prey in the African-Eurasian region have a poor conservation status and many are showing rapid or long-term population decline. With today’s signature, the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg will become the 30th signatory to this instrument.
During the International Year of Biodiversity CMS supports signatory states to develop national strategies to conserve birds of prey across their range. The Aquatic Warbler MoUhas already shown a significant conservation success by reducing significantly biodiversity loss.