New web-tool shows critical migratory waterbird sites need urgent protection

Written by Wetlands International

Innovative website, launched to support international conservation efforts for migratory waterbirds, shows key wetlands across Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Central Asia need protection now

A new website launched today by Wetlands International, BirdLife International and the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) reveals major gaps in the protection of many critical sites used by migratory waterbirds across Africa the Middle East, Europe and Central Asia.  A staggering one-third of the critical sites (representing over 1,000 individual sites within the network) are entirely unprotected, putting the future of many migratory waterbirds at risk.


Migratory waterbirds – such as waders, terns and geese – need an unbroken chain of wetlands to complete their annual life-cycles. These same wetlands  benefit people by providing clean water and opportunities for fishing, agriculture, recreation and tourism. However, wetlands are amongst the world’s most vulnerable ecosystems and, consequently, an alarming 42% of the migratory waterbird species across Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Central Asia are in decline.

The new ‘Critical Site Network (CSN)’ Tool provides comprehensive information on 294 waterbird species from 3,020 sites. It is designed to make information easily available on the most important sites for migratory waterbirds, both at the national and international level.

“The Critical Site Network Tool will provide an unprecedented level of access to information for all waterbird species covered by the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA). It brings together for the first time some of the most current and comprehensive information available internationally on the species and the sites they use,“ said Bert Lenten – Executive Secretary of AEWA – an international wildlife treaty administered by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

“To target conservation efforts effectively, access to reliable information about the critical sites that migratory waterbirds depend upon, and the ecological requirements of these species, is key,” underlined Lenten.

“The Critical Site Network Tool  identifies priority sites for the protection of migratory waterbirds, and also highlights knowledge gaps; showing us that many stop-over and non-breeding localities are still poorly known,” said Dr Marco Lambertini – Chief Executive of BirdLife International. “Only by combining adequate knowledge, targeted action, appropriate funding and local capacity on the ground will we be able to make a difference for migratory species”.

The CSN Tool also identifies sites and populations that need protection at a national level. For example, it has allowed conservationists to identify that only two of the five most important sites for the Near Threatened Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor in Tanzania – a vital country for the species – are currently protected.

Such information is now publicly available online, and will not only significantly help conservation efforts, but also facilitate national implementation of international environment agreements, such as AEWA and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. The CSN Tool will also help support the implementation of the EU Birds Directive and the Bern Convention.

Some of the most significant threats to critical sites across the network include expanding aquaculture and agriculture, as well as disturbance to birds. As this shows, policies within the agricultural, water management and energy sectors strongly influence biodiversity issues.  “There is tremendous potential for the CSN Tool to benefit decision-making in these areas as well.  This tool mobilizes information about these critical sites and the species that depend on them, for use in impact assessments, spatial planning and other development processes that currently have no access to these data” said Ward Hagemeijer, Head of Biodiversity at Wetlands International.  “This can make a real difference in the way development will be managed — avoiding, minimizing and mitigating impacts and contributing to sustainability”.


“The CSN Tool is a powerful new resource which will help strengthen both the implementation of AEWA and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands”


“The CSN Tool is a powerful new resource which will help strengthen both the implementation of AEWA and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands”, said Dr Nick Davidson – Deputy Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention. “It will provide enhanced support to governments and others in recognising and managing key wetlands for waterbirds, including through their designation as Wetlands of International Importance, and provide support for decision-making to secure wetlands throughout the region so that they continue to provide their many benefits to people and nature”.

The online-tool is being unveiled today at an International Waterbird Conservation Symposium taking place in The Hague, The Netherlands, to mark the 15th Anniversary of AEWA – the international wildlife treaty dedicated to the conservation of migratory waterbirds which use the African–Eurasian Flyway.

The CSN Tool has been jointly developed by Wetlands International, BirdLife International and the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP–WCMC) in the framework of the UNEP-GEF Wings Over Wetlands (WOW) Project, funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), German Government and several other partners and donors. WOW is the largest international waterbird and wetland conservation initiative ever undertaken in the African-Eurasian region.  The development of the CSN Tool has been a highly collaborative endeavour bringing together over 200 experts from 100 countries in the African-Eurasian region.


The Wings Over Wetlands (WOW) Project

The UNEP-GEF Wings Over Wetlands (WOW) African-Eurasian Flyways Project is a US$ 12 million initiative funded by The Global Environment Facility, the German Government, the UNEP-AEWA Secretariat and many other donors. The project is a joint effort between UNEP-GEF, Wetlands International, BirdLife International, UNEP-AEWA, the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN), the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, UNOPS, UNEP-WCMC and a range of other local partners in Africa and Eurasia.

The area covered by the initiative includes all 118 Range States of the UNEP-administered African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement, covering all of Africa, all of Europe, south-west Asia (including the Middle East and Central Asian States), Greenland and the Canadian Archipelago.

For more
information on the WOW project please visit:

Or download our latest Project Newsletter: Flyway Conservation at Work – Across Africa and Eurasia


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