Southern Cone Grasslands Alliance activities support shorebird conservation in Uruguay

Written by BirdLife International

Annually, Buff-breasted Sandpiper Tryngites subruficollis and American Golden Plover Pluvialis dominica undertake some of the longest journeys of any migratory birds in the world, from their breeding grounds in the tundra of North America (Canada and Alaska) to wintering sites in the grasslands of Southern South America. Aves Uruguay (BirdLife in Uruguay) and partners have secured approximately 3,000 hectares for both species of shorebirds through good management practices of the natural grasslands.


Image curtesy of BirdLife International.

Both species have suffered significant population declines due to habitat loss on their migration and wintering grounds and through hunting (in the Caribbean, and historically in North and South America). Their primary wintering grounds are the Southern Cone or Pampas grasslands of South America, and Laguna de Rocha in Uruguay is one of the few sites globally where they can be found in large numbers on a regular basis. Consequently, Laguna de Rocha has been identified as an IBA for both species (IBA UY019) and in 2010 was designated as a site of regional importance within the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN). Importantly, the lagoon and surrounding grasslands have recently been declared Protected Landscape within the new National Protected Areas System.

Laguna de Rocha is one of the pilot sites for the Southern Cone Grasslands Alliance (www.pastizalesdelconosur), where, through collaboration with local ranchers, best practices for the management of natural grasslands are being developed which enable ranchers to conserve the unique biodiversity of their grasslands through livestock ranching. A combination of academic research, traditional knowledge and the monitoring of grassland bird populations are being used to develop the most appropriate grassland management practices for each species of conservation concern.

The work at Laguna de Rocha is being led by Aves Uruguay with the support of the national university (the Universidad de la República). A research and monitoring program has been established for both species, with the goal of understanding the main factors determining habitat preferences, and the relationship with land use, diet, territoriality, site fidelity (between years) and spatial segregation of the sexes. The program will also assess the local population status, estimate demographic parameters (e.g. survival), local movements and help identify the migratory flyways used by both species. Through the program, college students will receive training in topics such as migration ecology, behavioral ecology, biodiversity conservation and field techniques.

Information generated through the research and monitoring program is being used to inform decisions regarding stocking rates, rotation cycles and other aspects of livestock management by producers to help create appropriate habitat for Buff-breasted Sandpiper and American Golden Plover. This synergy has been made possible in part thanks to the support of the “Responsible Production Project” of the Uruguayan Ministry of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries.

Aves Uruguay’s work at Laguna de Rocha is made possible through the project “Connecting people and places for the conservation of Buff-breasted Sandpiper Tryngenites subruficollis” financed by the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act (NMBCA of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) and the Eastern Regional University Centre (Centro Universitario Regional Este, Universidad de la República). It is also supported through theSouthern Cone Grasslands Alliance, which is supported by the Aage V. Jensen Charity FoundationCanadian Wildlife ServiceNMBCA and U.S. Forest Service – International Programs; in addition to support from the Responsible Production Project, the Basic Sciences Development Program of the Universidad de la República and WHSRN.

Further information: Pablo Rocca ( Grasslands Alliance Coordinator un Uruguay.


Dakota Grassland Conservation Area Proposed

Written by American Bird Conservancy

An important program to protect key grassland and wetland complexes in the core of the U.S. Prairie Pothole region has been proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It is called the “Dakota Grasslands Conservation Area”, and would dedicate $588 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to protect more than 240,000 acres of wetlands and 1.7 million acres of privately-owned grasslands in North Dakota, South Dakota, and eastern Montana.


Marbled Godwit. © Jan Wegener

Conservation would occur through the purchase of conservation easements from willing landowners. This program is meant to serve as a critical piece of a broader conservation strategy targeting more than 10 million acres of grassland habitat in the Prairie Potholes over the next few decades. Without such efforts, it is estimated that one-third to one-half of these critical habitats will be converted to other uses within 35 years.

Prairie potholes are seasonal, primarily fresh water wetlands found in North and South Dakota, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and other states in the upper Midwest and into Canada. This formerly glaciated landscape is pockmarked with an immense number of depressions which fill with snowmelt and rain in the spring.

In addition to being known as North America’s “duck factory“, the Prairie Pothole region is the core of the global range of several U.S. WatchList birds. Ninety percent of the global population of Baird’s Sparrow breeds in the Prairie Potholes, and 86% of the Sprague’s Pipits. These areas are also crucially important to the Short-eared Owl, Long-billed Curlew, Marbled Godwit, Nelson’s Sparrow, and McCown’s Longspur. Most of these birds have seen significant declines in available habitat throughout their ranges.

It will be impossible to stem the tide of grassland bird declines without implementing widespread conservation strategies in the Prairie Pothole region,” said Dan Casey, Northern Rockies Coordinator for ABC and primary author of the Prairie Potholes Joint Venture’s Landbird Implementation Plan. This plan is designed to identify strategies for implementing biologically-sound landbird habitat protection and enhancement in the Prairie Potholes Region.

Working with willing landowners to acquire conservation easements will not only protect these crucial wetland and grassland habitats, it will help maintain traditional land uses and lifestyles of the prairies. Similar work is needed throughout the range of these birds wherever native prairie can still be found,” Casey said.

Although the official public comment period for the project’s initial environmental analysis ended in mid-January, the opportunity to comment will continue for those on the mailing list for the draft land protection plan. Email to request to be added to this list. A fact sheet on the project is available at:

New hope for migratory grassland birds of South America

Written by BirdLife Americas

The rich grasslands in South America, home to one of the world’s most valuable ecosystems is fast disappearing and migratory grassland birds, which play an important role by dispersing seeds and controlling insects, are also rapidly declining in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.

In order to reverse this trend, the Convention on Migratory Species of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP/CMS), in collaboration with BirdLife International and Guyra Paraguay (BirdLife Partner), convened a one-day meeting in Asunción, Paraguay, where Government representatives, scientists and conservationists adopted an action plan for urgent conservation measures to ensure the survival of these birds and their habitats.


The Buff-breasted Sandpiper breeds in North America and covers a distance of 20,000 km to its non-breeding sites in South America to feed and recharge its batteries. Credit: Seabamirum / Flickr

CMS Executive Secretary Elizabeth Maruma Mrema said: “The CMS action plan does not only address threats to migratory grassland birds in South America. By preserving their habitat, we safeguard many other endangered species. At the same time we help mitigating climate change because it aims to conserve the grasslands that produce oxygen and act as carbon sinks.”

Grassland birds are the gardeners of this formerly rich ecosystem. However, their habitats in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay have been destroyed in recent years due to agricultural and aquacultural activities as well as the timber industry.

Agriculture, in particular the cultivation of soya, has put these important ecosystems at risk as pollution from pesticides and other agrochemicals are carried by drainage and run-off directly into marshes and wetlands.

In addition the natural grasslands are being converted into pastures for cattle and meat export to the world’s markets and pastures are frequently burnt to accelerate the food supply for grazing cattle.

The afforestation of pampas with Eucalyptus and pine trees also contributes to widespread habitat loss. This monoculture of non-endemic trees drains valuable wetlands, crucial for species conservation, to satisfy the global demand for paper.

The grassland bird species covered under the CMS agreement are highly-prized as caged song birds which have been illegally captured and kept in cages in private households all over the world.

A major priority of the CMS action plan is protecting and managing the habitats for these migratory grassland birds. New protected areas will be identified to create a viable network of ecosystems and the conservation of the birds needs to be included in their management plans.


Alliance for grasslands

Written by Martin Fowlie/BirdLife International

The Alliances initiative for the conservation of the South American Southern Cone grasslands was launched by organisations dedicated to the conservation and study of wild birds in the four South American countries which share the great biome of the ???Pampas??? or grasslands of the Southern Cone of the continent.

These organisations are BirdLife Partners: Aves Argentinas, Aves Uruguay, SAVE Brazil, and Guyra Paraguay. Each national organisation makes a particular effort within their own country and they all work together to promote their work.

Other organisations in the Northern Hemisphere are making similar efforts to focus the attention of conservationist organisations and farmers on the conservation of the great prairies.

Many bird species use these prairies and the southern grasslands throughout the year. Migrant species like Upland Sandpiper Bartramia longicauda, Swainson Hawk Buteo swainsoni, the Buff Breasted Sandpiper Tryngites subruficollis, or the Bobolink Dolichonyx oryzivorus have their breeding period in Canada, the United States, and Mexico, but they migrate to the southern pampas in winter (where they again enjoy the summer season).

This is a challenge on a continental level, the Southern Cone initiative interacts and works with organisations like National Audubon Society (Birdlife Partner in the U.S.), the U.S. Forest Service, the Northern Prairies Action Plan and Pronatura (BirdLife in Mexico).

Recently the alliance has been working to establish ???Standards of Excellence for the Management and Quality of Natural Grasslands Beef in the Southern Cone of South America???. This will enable the Alliance for the Grasslands to recognise, guarantee and certify products that are friendly towards the conservation of natural farmland and its biodiversity.

For more information click here

Source: BirdLife Community