The Aquatic Warbler
Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was concluded in
Minsk, Belarus, under the auspices of the Convention
on Migratory Species (CMS) and became effective on
30 April 2003. It aims to safeguard the Aquatic Warbler,
a small migratory waterbird that is estimated to have
declined sharply at a rate equivalent to 40 per cent
in the last 10 years.
the complete world population of this species is breeding
and spending part of the year in the marshes and fen
mires of Belarus, Poland and the Ukraine. Its dependence
on a specialised and vulnerable breeding habitat (for
example marshes, fen mires) means it has become globally
threatened, as its habitats have been suffering from
constant decline. This decline is especially due to
human induced changes in the hydrological regime in
key sites (both drainage and flooding), changes in
land use and habitat fragmentation due to infrastructure
building. The effects of pollution pose a further
The Aquatic Warbler migrates up to 12,000 km from
Eastern Europe to sub-Saharan Africa. The migration
strategy of the Aquatic Warbler requires the availability
of many suitable stop-over sites, the loss of which
can be a potential bottleneck for the species.
This MoU reflects the common concern over the dramatic
decline of this bird species and reflects the Signatory
States’ determination to reverse the current
trend. The MoU area includes all countries where the
Aquatic Warbler breeds, rests on migration or winters.
The MoU area includes Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria,
Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands,
Poland, the Russian Federation, Senegal, Spain, Ukraine
and the United Kingdom. CMS and BirdLife International,
which also was involved in the MoU’s development,
have also signed the MoU as collaborating organisations.
The First Meeting of the Signatory States (Criewen,
2006) endorsed working further with competent authorities
of three countries originally identified as Aquatic
Warbler Range States - France, the Netherlands, Russian
Federation and inviting Mauritania and Morocco to
join the MoU. An up to date list of the MoU’s
Signatories is found in the Agreement Summary Sheet.
The MoU calls for cooperation among national authorities
to promote the conservation of the species. It requires
the strict protection of the species and the maintenance
and restoration of its habitat.
The Action Plan
A detailed Action Plan is annexed
to the MoU. It summarises the distribution, biology
and conservation status of the Aquatic Warbler, and
describes precise actions to be taken by relevant
The main objective of the Action Plan is to maintain
the Aquatic Warbler throughout its range and, in the
medium to long term, promote the expansion of the
breeding population to other suitable areas. Actions
to be taken by the Signatories can be summarized in
four different categories: legislative measures to
ensure the species’ conservation, species and
habitat protection, monitoring and research and the
establishment of a public awareness strategy.
The MoU provides an intergovernmental
framework for governments, scientists and other groups
to monitor and coordinate ongoing conservation efforts.
Progress in MoU and Action Plan implementation is
described in the Secretariat’s Overview Report
provided at regular MoU Signatory meetings.
Governments and conservation groups throughout the
species’ range are working actively to conserve
the Aquatic Warbler and its breeding and migratory
habitats. Several large-scale projects have been successfully
implemented or are underway in key Aquatic Warbler
flyway countries in order to secure breeding and stop-over
sites. Additionally, CMS has worked with BirdLife
International to establish a jointly-funded MoU coordinator.
Working out of Belarus, the MoU coordinator oversees
the publication of the Aquatic Warbler Flyway
Newsletter, identifies additional funding sources
and maintains links with conservation organizations.
In January of 2007, the BirdLife International Aquatic
Warbler Conservation Team discovered a key site within
the Aquatic Warbler’s wintering grounds in West
Africa, which were completely unknown until then.
According to first estimates, the Djoudj National
Park in Northwest Senegal and its surroundings are
believed to hold up to a third of the world population.
Much of the Aquatic Warbler’s presumed historic
wintering habitat has been converted into farmland
and sugarcane plantations. Drought conditions caused
by climate change could put increasing pressure on
the Aquatic Warbler’s remaining habitat.
The discovery of the wintering site contributes to
implementing the MoU and Action Plan. Signatory countries
had agreed in 2006 to invite Mauritania, with similar
habitat on the opposite side of the Senegal River,
to join the MoU. This would allow Senegal and Mauritania
to coordinate their conservation efforts. Additionally,
the discovery will create an extra incentive for European
conservation efforts to be extended into Africa to
truly encompass the bird’s full migratory range.