Migratory waterbirds are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change in their breeding areas in the High Arctic and Africa, according to a new study published in Bird Conservation International. The research team came to this conclusion after modeling the climatic and hydrological conditions in current and future climate scenarios (in 2050) and comparing the impact on the distribution of 197 of the 255 waterbird species listed in under the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds. (AEWA). The international team was led by Wetlands International, BirdLife International and the British Trust for Ornithology, drawing on researchers from various universities, including McGill. The results suggest that there is an urgent need to invest more in the conservation of habitats in the wider landscape, in addition to the conservation of managed protected areas, to help migratory waterbirds adapt to the impacts of change. climate.
“Most of the previous studies on Africa-Eurasia flyways have focused on the impact of climate change on Palaearctic birds,” says Frank Breiner, of Wetlands International, who developed the species distribution models. “Our results suggest that Afrotropical species will be even more exposed to the impact of climate change than most species in the temperate Palaearctic. Species that breed in southern and eastern Africa, such as the maccoa duck and the already globally threatened White-winged Flufftail are particularly at risk, but some still common species, such as the Cape Teal and the Red-button Coot, are expected to experience a net loss of range exceeding 30%. Afrotropical species appear to be more sensitive to changes in precipitation than Palaearctic species. “
Significant reductions in freshwater flow and wetlands
“Our models project a variety of changes in the water cycle that will affect the dynamics and extent of wetlands,” says Bernhard Lehner, associate professor in the Department of Geography at McGill University who led the modeling work. hydrological. “This will make the species that depend on them vulnerable, as they will have to cope with changes in their breeding grounds and natural habitats.”
The modeling revealed areas of particular concern in terms of significant reductions in freshwater flows and wetland area. These include the Mediterranean region, the Tigris-Euphrates watershed in the Middle East, West Africa such as the Gambia River, as well as the Upper Zambezi and Upper Zambezi watersheds. Okavango in southern Africa. Projected changes in river flow, species distribution and the suitability of key sites for African-Eurasian waterbirds are available in Tool 2.0 of the Critical Site Network.
“Our results will help national authorities to anticipate the hydrological changes that are likely to occur due to climate change and to get a better idea of how predicted climate change might impact migratory waterbirds and sites such as these. they have the responsibility, ”notes Vicky Jones, flyway science coordinator. at BirdLife International. “Taking this information into account in the planning and management of national networks of sites and policies affecting the wider landscape will be vital to ensure that populations of migratory waterbird species can be secured and sustained. by national networks of sites in the future. “
“While protected areas will remain vital for waterbird conservation in the future, the predicted negative impacts on dispersive and breeding populations in the north suggest that broader climate change adaptation measures, such as agricultural drainage, protection of open habitats from forestry and restoration of wetlands may also be required outdoors. protected areas, ”notes James Pearce-Higgins, Scientific Director of BTO.
Need for an integrated approach
“What really concerns us is that waterbird species that breed in countries with less financial and technical capacity will be more exposed to climate change than in rich countries with better governance. . In addition, countries where waterbirds are most exposed to climate change will also face climate change adaptation challenges for their human populations, ”adds Szabolcs Nagy, of Wetlands International, the lead author of the study. “Therefore, it is essential that financing instruments for climate change adaptation apply a more integrated approach focused on nature-based solutions that deliver benefits to both people and biodiversity.”
“The findings presented in this article have important policy implications for the flyway-scale conservation of migratory waterbirds in the face of climate change,” says Jacques Trouvilliez, Executive Secretary of AEWA. “The research is not just about? Providing increased knowledge about the vulnerability of species and their habitats to flyway-wide climate change, it is also giving us a better understanding of where we need to focus our activities. climate-related adaptation for AEWA species. “
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