Integrated monitoring of coastal waterbird populations along the East Atlantic Flyway


The Wadden Sea is a very important breeding, moulting, staging and wintering site for migratory waterbird populations in the East Atlantic Flyway. However many of these populations are in decline. For policy and management, to improve the conservation status of these populations, knowledge is needed, not only from the Wadden Sea itself, but also from the other sites these populations use during their annual cycle, which can stretch from the high Arctic to deep into Africa. This report provides a framework and programme outline for integrated monitoring of these populations along the flyway.

This monitoring will provide an early warning of populations in need of conservation measures. It will enable the pinpointing of sites, periods of the yearly cycle and likely drivers responsible for the deteriorating conservation status of the populations and it makes evaluation of the effectiveness of policy and management measures taken possible.

To achieve this, the monitoring programme needs to collect data, at site and international (flyway) level, of abundance, vital rates and environmental conditions and analyse the interactions between these, it will consist of:

  • Enhancing flyway monitoring of the population sizes and trends of the coastal waterbird populations through the International Waterbird Census (IWC) in the East Atlantic Flyway. Flyway trends and population sizes are essential baseline information for defining conservation priorities and identifying important sites, and provide context values for the interpretation of national and local developments;
  • Improving site monitoring of coastal sites which are important for waterbird populations in the East Atlantic Flyway, through enhancement of the Important Bird Areas (IBA) programme. This will focus on the monitoring of bird numbers, the state of their habitats, human use and pressures and the existence of conservation measures;
  • Enhancing vital rates monitoring through establishing a platform for the international coordination and joint reporting and analysis of demographic data relating to coastal waterbirds throughout the East Atlantic Flyway. This will enable the identification of the drivers of population trends by bringing together currently dispersed and largely unpublished data;
  • Expanding and improving the integration, availability and communication of the results of this waterbird monitoring in the East Atlantic Flyway for different stakeholders needing this information for management and policy.

This programme is intended as a platform for cooperation among existing organizations; there is no intention to create a new organization. It builds on existing initiatives and aims to give added value through bringing together information which is valuable for many stakeholders. It will not be possible to raise funding centrally for all initiatives needed, including the collection of vital rates, count data and environmental data at the national level. It is proposed that funding needs to be found for international coordination among research groups and institutions involved in the kind of monitoring described in this programme.

An exception is made for abundance and environmental monitoring in coastal Western Africa, which is currently a gap in the possibilities for flyway analyses. For this region the programme aims to raise funding to support local initiatives to improve the basis for monitoring. It is hoped that this programme can grow through time as more initiatives will join. Besides Wadden Sea populations, many other waterbird populations using sites in the East Atlantic Flyway will benefit from the same monitoring programme.