New Study Highlights Gaps in Protection for Migratory Birds Globally


Bonn, 4 December 2015 - A new study on protected areas and global conservation of migratory birds has just been published in Science calling for greater international efforts to conserve migratory bird species, many of which are not adequately protected across their range.  The research, involving scientists from Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom concludes that just 9 per cent of the 1,451 species of migratory birds covered by the study have sufficient coverage of protected areas catering for all stages of their annual cycle.

“Migratory species rely on a number of different habitats and sites throughout their life cycle, which very often are located in different countries, hence the need for international collaboration. This is exactly what CMS and the regional Agreements negotiated under it such as AEWA for migratory waterbirds in Africa and Eurasia are designed to provide” says Bradnee Chambers, Executive Secretary of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS).    “The new study published in Science, highlights that international efforts need to be stepped up and that inter-governmental coordination is crucial for safeguarding migratory birds” underlines Chambers.

The willingness of countries to work together for the protection of migratory waterbirds along the African-Eurasian Flyway was also re-confirmed at an  inter-governmental meeting recently convened  under the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA).

At the meeting, the countries along that flyway agreed to work together to tackle the multiple threats migratory waterbirds such as storks, cranes, ducks and geese face by adopting a total of 22 resolutions and several targeted action plans for highly threatened Seabirds and species such as the Eurasian Curlew, Grey Crowned-crane, Long-tailed Duck, Northern Bald Ibis, Shoebill and Taiga Bean Goose.

The new study published in Science, underlines that protection efforts cannot be successful if they are limited to individual countries alone and that protection measures need to span multiple countries which share the same migratory birds. For example, according to the report Germany scores a near perfect 98% for meeting targets for protecting habitat for its migratory bird species, while its efforts are undermined because only 13% of those species are adequately protected across their entire range.  Other countries fare less well, with some even assessed of having no areas offering special protection for birds.

Global Flyways

The role of international treaties such as CMS and the Ramsar Convention in recognizing the challenges faced by migratory species and waterbirds in particular is acknowledged in the study as are efforts being made under CMS to address one of the current gaps, namely landbirds of the African-Eurasian flyway. In this regard, CMS has adopted in 2014 an African-Eurasian Migratory Landbirds Action Plan (AEMLAP). The Second Meeting of the CMS African-Eurasian Migratory Landbirds Working Group has just taken place in Abidjan from 25 – 27 November 2015.

The most recent meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CMS held in Quito in November 2014 also adopted the Strategic Plan for Migratory Species, which includes two targets that aim to address some of the problems identified in the study.  These relate to international and regional action and cooperation between States for the conservation and effective management of migratory species, in which all States sharing responsibility for the species concerned engage in such actions in a concerted way (Target 9) and in the inclusion of all critical habitats and sites for migratory species in area-based conservation measures so as to maintain their quality, integrity, resilience and functioning (Target 10).

Additionally, a Programme of Work on Flyways was adopted highlighting the need to follow a flyway approach when designing conservation action for migratory birds, ensuring protection for breeding areas, stop-over sites and wintering grounds.

The reaction of BirdLife International to the study can be read here.  The study itself was published in the December edition of Science magazine.  The media release issued by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED) lead partners in the research can be found here.


For more information, please contact:

Florian Keil, Coordinator of the Common Information Management, Communication and Outreach Team of the UNEP/CMS and UNEP/AEWA Secretariats, tel: +49 (0)228 815 2451, e-mail: [email protected]

Veronika Lenarz, Public Information, UNEP/CMS Secretariat, tel: +49 (0)228 815 2409, e-mail: [email protected]

Last updated on 14 September 2016