It’s a global campaign and it’s dedicated to raising awareness of migratory birds and the need for countries around the world to co-operate in their efforts to save them.
This year, the theme is “Birds Connect Our World”.
It was picked to highlight how important it is to conserve and restore the ecological connectivity and integrity of ecosystems which support the natural cycles that are essential for migratory birds to survive and thrive.
The day gives us all an opportunity to discover more about migratory birds and be in awe at their amazing feats.
Migratory birds need networks with stops
Migratory birds travel far. They need to be able to stop to rest and feed and breed. If you like, you could liken it as a journey along a motorway system and every so often, they need to stop for a break to fill their tummies and have a break.
Birds need networks of sites
They need a network of sites along these routes to breed, to feed, to rest and spend the winter. They need different sites and habitats, irrelevant of which country they are in. They can cross incredible distances and over impossible terrains such as deserts and open seas. They cross national borders and soar above any national agenda. What they do need is for countries to co-operate to ensure their routes are kept open and safe for them.
Examples of migratory birds’ routes
The East Asian – Australasian Flyway goes from the Russian Far East and Alaska through East Asia and South-East Asia, down to Australia and New Zealand – 22 countries in all. The Flyway is home to over 50 million migratory waterbirds from over 250 different populations. They need a system of wetlands to rest, feed and build up the energy they need for the next part of their journey.
RSPB has information about the Arctic tern who travels a rather amazing 22,000 miles a year – the longest migration of all – as they move continually between the Arctic summer and the Antarctic summer.
So you can see how important it is that countries work together to give these birds the flight paths they need, with all the facilities along the way.
What can be done at a national/international level:
Increase action globally via environment treaties such as the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and the Africa-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA). These are vital to protect migratory birds on their international flight paths.
Creating habitat corridors which are protected and which go across boundaries would really help animals who migrate and fly over national boundaries.
Networks of crucial sites which are imperative to migration needs must be safeguarded and managed properly. Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas as described by BirdLife International give migratory birds all they need during their long flights - necessary feeding, breeding, nesting and sheltering grounds.
What individuals like you & me can do:
Have a bird-friendly garden with safe shelters and a bird bath. Give them bird food. Put feeders out of reach of cats.
Spread the word about how important it is to protect migratory birds.
Download and use birding apps – it’s a great way to connect to like-minded bird lovers.
Sometimes you see something on the internet or on television that really hits you hard and makes a point extremely well.
I saw this video, this afternoon, and I wanted to share it with you. Please share it with everyone you can.
The ultimate message is that we SHARE this planet. It demonstrates how dominant the human race has become - and how selfish. I am not going to tell you anymore about it - please just watch it for yourself. Here it is:
WLT are working with Fundacion Biodiversa Colombia to save 260ha of lowland forest and wetlands.
They need to raise £295,000 to ensure these habitats are safe. The area has already suffered from extreme deforestation and degradation – a whopping 90% of the original forests have been lost, so it’s vital to protect the remaining 10%.
Many endangered species live there, from the American Manatee and Magdalena River Turtle to the Lowland Tapir and Jaguar. There are a lot of monkeys there – the White-footed Tamarin, the Brown Spider Monkey and the Varied White-fronted Capuchin.
The World Land Trust works closely with local conservation organisations and it speaks very well of FBC’s track record of conservation.
Back in 1971 on 2 February, the Convention on Wetlands was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar which sits on the shores of the Caspian Sea
Today, the 2nd February is a really important day for people and wildlife, because it’s a chance to highlight how important wetlands are to us all. They are where land meets sea. The 2nd February is World Wetlands Day.
This year, the theme is “Wetlands and Biodiversity”, is an opportunity to highlight the importance of wetland biodiversity conservation.
Where are wetlands?
Wetlands cover areas such as shores, estuaries, mudflats, floodplains, coastal marshes, local ponds, the bog and pond in your garden, mangrove swamps, seagrass beds, and rivers. They cover a very small of the earth’s surface – and yet they are one of the most important habitats on our planet.
"If rainforests are the lungs of the planet, then wetlands are the lifeblood. As much as we need air to breathe, we need water to live. The conservation of our wetlands is essential to all life on earth.” WWT
Why wetlands matter to people:
They provide us with drinking water
They store a third of the world’s carbon emissions
They buffer us from floods and droughts
They are important for our health and wellbeing
Why do wetlands matter to wildlife?
40% of all plant and animal species live or breed here.
Sundarbans National Park (India) is formed of tidal rivers, creeks and canals and supports species such as the single largest population of tiger, and aquatic mammals such as the Irrawaddy and Ganges River dolphins, all under threat.
So what’s happening to wetlands in our changing world?
A recent global IPBES assessment identified wetlands as the most threatened ecosystem. This impacts 40% of the world’s plant and animal species that live or breed in wetlands.
Our wetlands are threatened by:
Beavering away to address these problems are organisations such as the World Heritage Centre. An example of its work is the Okavango Delta which has incredible biodiversity but is threatened thanks to development pressure. It’s home to indigenous peoples and wildlife such as the cheetah, white rhinos, black rhinos, lion and the African wild dog. In 2019, the State Parties of Namibia, Botswana and Angola agreed a roadmap to explore the boundary extension of the World Heritage Site here to protect the river basin and the unique wetland system.
In the UK, there’s the WWT –Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust but of course its work extends well beyond the UK.
WWT say that:
Between 1970 and 2014, populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptile species declined by a dreadful 60%
In the last 400 years, England has lost 90% of her wetlands
30% of known fish species, many at risk amphibians and reptiles, migratory and resident water birds,, and thousands of plant species life here.
However, the WWT is working hard to create, protect and restore – it believes we can reverse the decline and bring wetlands back to life. Its conservation projects strengthen the link between wetlands, wildlife and people, both in the UK and further afield. Find out more about their plans for 2020
So what can we all do to help wetland conservation?
WWT can create new wetlands in a few months and years – so your support can really make a difference quickly. But there’s something we can all do to help and you’ll find more links and further resources further down.
Create a pond in your garden, local area or school
Visit a wetland close to you and spend time there. Use your senses while you visit. Listen to the sounds you can hear; look at the sights, smell the scents.
Support the conservation work of your local wetlands charity
Volunteer for local wetland charities
Donate to wetland charities – look out for their appeals
World Wetland Network – a collection of NGOs and Civil Society Groups all working for wetland conservation
Wetland Link International – a support network for wetland education centres which deliver engagement activities on site. The WWT in the UK lead it; it has 350 members over 6 continents!
RAMSAR – The Convention on Wetlands is an intergovernmental treaty which provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.
World Wetlands Day – held every year on 2 February to raise awareness of the importance of wetlands and how we can all help
In the run up to World Oceans Day (8th June every year), Environment Secretary Michael Gove has created 41 new Marine Conservation Zones.
This represents the most significant expansion of England’s Blue Belt of Protected Areas to date.
Stretching from Northumberland (where eider ducks live) to the Isles of Scilly off Cornwall (basking sharks, seabirds and fish) , the action Gove has taken safeguards 12,000 square kilometres of marine habitat. A substantial number of additional zones were created in waters away from the coast – some in the deep sea – thus giving protection to habitats and species such as coral gardens, fan mussel and sea pens.
Vulnerable marine wildlife will now have an opportunity to recover. And if there are richer habitats for marine life, so there life will be better for those whose livelihoods depend on a healthy coastline and sea.
WWF has discovered that in marine protected areas, fish breed more readily and populations recover. In the Apo Island (Philippines), communities depend heavily on fish. After a marine protected area was created, catch per unit increased 50%. Fish populations tripled. Fisherman were able to save fuel and spend less time at sea.
The UK now has over 350 Marine Protected Areas, covering 220,000 square kilometres – that’s twice the size of England.
The areas protected include wildlife such as worms, seahorse and oyster. Sand, tidal mud, rocky reefs and gravel will be protected. Each as a role to play in the balance of nature.
The evidence about the importance of these new sites was gathered by volunteer divers who dive for Seasearch, a programme co-ordinated by the Marine Conservation Society. Divers spent hours diving very diverse seabed habitats to record the marine plants and animals living in our inshore seas. There were extensive consultations with local fishermen too, and members of the public.
This citizen science enabled groups such as the Marine Conservation Society to make a case for protecting many of these sites, and they will now be involved in developing management and monitoring plans for these newly protected areas.
After all, protection must be active if it is to mean anything. It’s no good allocating a protected status to an area if action isn’t taken to ensure that the area IS protected.
The UK government has called for 30% of the world’s oceans to be protected by 2030. It has co-chaired the creation of the Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance with Vanuatu.
Later this year, the government will publish an international strategy setting out more action to conserve the ocean and use it in a sustainable way.
Meantime, its next step closer to home is to stop damaging activities in the Marine Protected Zones which affect wildlife. Beam trawling, dredging for scallops and langoustines are among these – and surely there must be some action to stop some leisure activities, too.
But this is a great start, and the fact that citizen scientists (e.g. willing volunteers) and world-class marine scientists have worked together to contribute towards such an outcome is heart-warming.
Watch this space!
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