World Bird News October 2012

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | World Bird News | World Bird News 2012 |  World Bird News October 2012

Global bird extinctions are increasing warns new research

Global bird extinctions are increasing warns new research

The rate of bird extinctions is accelerating at an alarming rate according to a new paper by BirdLife International and Charles Darwin University.

Global Patterns and Drivers of Avian Extinctions at the Species and Subspecies Level, published in PLoS One, reveals 279 bird species and subspecies from across the globe have become extinct in the last 500 years. The study shows that species extinctions peaked in the early 20th century, then fell until the mid-20th century, and have subsequently accelerated.

“Until this study it had been hoped the rate of extinction was slowing”, said lead author Dr Judit Szabo of Charles Darwin University.

“Historically most extinctions have occurred on islands, particularly those in the Pacific, but most of the really susceptible species are long gone.”

The study shows that the destruction of native habitat for agriculture is currently the main cause of extinctions. Unsustainable hunting and the introduction of alien species, such as cats and rats, have been the main causes of extinctions in the past.

“Humans are directly or indirectly responsible for this loss”, Dr Szabo said.

The world’s nations had agreed through the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to slow biodiversity loss by 2010, and having failed to reach this goal, the target has now been adjusted to 2020.

Report co-author Dr Stuart Butchart, BirdLife International’s Global Research Coordinator, said many species survive only because of conservation interventions.

“This list would have been much longer were it not for the work being done around the world to stop extinctions. But we need to scale up our efforts substantially to avoid further human-induced extinctions”, said Dr Butchart.

“Our analysis provides the most detailed picture to date of recent extinctions and will help us identify strategies to tackle the loss of biodiversity and halt future human-induced extinctions. The Conference of the Parties of the CBD that starts today in Hyderabad, India will need some firm action to achieve its target of achieving this by 2020.”
Illustration: Chris Rose

The cost of conservation: US$80 billion a year needed to save nature

World governments have committed to halting extinctions and safeguarding important sites for nature by 2020. However, until now, the financial costs of meeting these targets have been largely unknown. A new study provides hard figures estimating the investments needed to reduce the extinction risk for all known threatened species at US$4 billion annually, with a further US$76 billion needed each year to protect and effectively manage terrestrial sites of global conservation significance. This shows that a substantial increase in investment in conservation is urgently required, but the total needed is trivial in comparison to the economic benefits that nature provides.
Following the failure of previous global commitments to reduce the rate of loss of biodiversity, in 2010, all parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adopted a new strategic plan, including the 20 Aichi Targets to be met by 2020. But the negotiations on financing are not yet resolved due to a lack of political will and patchy information on the investments needed. With the next CBD Conference of the Parties now underway in Hyderabad, India, an international team of authors led by scientists from BirdLife International and the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) has produced the first authoritative information on the financial costs of meeting two of the Aichi Targets that are most urgent: saving threatened species and protecting key sites for conservation.

In the paper, Financial Costs of Meeting Two Global Biodiversity Conservation Targets: Current Spending and Unmet Needs, published in the journal Science, they use data for birds – the best known class of organisms – to estimate the costs of meeting conservation targets for all nature. The cost of reducing the extinction risk of all globally threatened bird species (enough to show improvement by one category on the IUCN Red List) is estimated at US$0.88-1.23 billion annually over the next decade. Just 12% of this funding is currently provided. Using data on the relative costs for other types of animals and plants, the team estimated that preventing human-driven extinction and improving the status of all animal and plant species known to be globally threatened would cost US$3.41-$4.76 billion annually.
To assess the costs of safeguarding sites, the authors examined terrestrial sites of global conservation significance for birds (the 11,731 Important Bird Areas <Actinic:Variable Name = 'IBAs'/> identified by BirdLife). IBAs represent the largest systematically identified global network of important sites for biodiversity (not just birds), but only 28% are completely covered by existing protected areas. Effectively managing these already-protected sites would cost US$7.2 billion each year. Expanding protection and effective management to the remaining IBAs increases the total to $57.8 billion per year. These additional protected areas would increase the proportion of the world’s land surface covered by protected areas to just over 17%, the threshold governments have committed to in the Aichi Targets.

Globally important sites have also been systematically identified for mammals, amphibians and some reptile, fish, plant and invertebrate groups in a number of countries. Of these sites, 71% already qualify as IBAs. Assuming this relationship holds worldwide, the costs of protecting and effectively managing a global network of sites for nature more broadly is estimated to be US$76.1 billion annually.

“The shortfalls we have identified highlight a clear and urgent need to scale up investment in biodiversity conservation substantially”, said the paper’s lead author, Donal McCarthy, Environmental Economist at BirdLife International and the RSPB. “But the total costs are very small relative to the likely costs of inaction. The total is just 1-4% of the net value of ecosystem services being lost annually, for which estimates range from $2 to $6.6 trillion. More prosaically, the total required is less than 20% of annual global consumer spending on soft drinks.”

“The total sums may sound large, but these are investments, not bills – saving nature makes economic sense because of the payback in terms of services and benefits that people receive in return, from mitigating climate change to pollinating crops”, said Dr Stuart Butchart, BirdLife International’s Global Research Coordinator.

The analysis, funded by the Cambridge Conservation Initiative Collaborative Fund for Conservation and Arcadia, provides a sound basis for resolving the discussions among governments on the finance needed to implement the CBD Strategic Plan for Biodiversity up to 2020. A particular challenge will be how to address the current mismatch between the higher resources available in richer countries and the higher conservation needs in biodiversity-rich but financially poor countries.

“Resolving the on-going conservation funding crisis is urgent: the longer that investments in conservation are delayed, the more the costs will grow and the greater will be the difficulty of successfully meeting the targets”, added Butchart.

Falcon wins New Zealand Bird of the Year

The New Zealand falcon (karearea) has been crowned Bird of the Year in Forest & Bird’s (BirdLife in New Zealand) eighth annual poll.

This year 10,292 votes were cast in this fiercely contested poll, with the karearea snatching 1261 votes in total, followed by the kokako (965) and the ruru (663).

“The karearea is a bird that’s most worthy of the title Bird of the Year,” says Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell.

“As well as being a top predator that can reach speeds of up to 230km an hour and catch prey mid-flight, it’s a great romantic. During courtship, couples will perform an aerial ballet, swapping food mid-flight, performing mock attack dives or spiralling gracefully landward.”

Despite being an aerial daredevil, it is vulnerable to predation when nesting on the ground and is listed as ”threatened”.

A recent Department of Conservation study suggests that adult falcons are less able to defend their nest from predators than previously thought. “The NZ falcon nests on rocky ledges or on the ground, making it particularly vulnerable to predators such as cats, hedgehogs, stoats, weasels and possums.”

Each year, Forest & Bird volunteers put in thousands of pest-busting hours to keep safe threatened native birds such as the NZ falcon.

In the 2012 Bird of the Year poll, bird ambassadors fought hard to get their bird in the top spot and performed stunts from colouring competitions to sonnet performances. Saddleback campaigner Jackson James Wood even tattooed an image of his bird on to his bicep.

NZ falcon campaigner and comedian Raybon Kan was thrilled by his bird’s win. “I’m overjoyed that democracy has spoken. In tough times, the people need a hero. We need a bird that inspires us – an athletic bird that swoops from the sky, not some wheezy, pedestrian bird that’s a waste of feathers,” he says.

“If you have feathers and can’t fly, don’t complain that you didn’t win Bird of the Year. It’d be like Kim Dotcom trying to win Miss Universe. Not going to happen.”

Marine conservation e-Atlas marks a breakthrough in sharing data to manage the world’s oceans

The first global inventory of important sites for the conservation of migratory marine species represents a major contribution to marine conservation and will prove to be a vital resource for meeting the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) target of protecting 10% of marine and coastal areas by 2020. It will also be crucial to the process of describing ecologically or biologically significant marine areas (EBSAs) and will have significant input into the siting of offshore energy infrastructure.

The e-Atlas of Marine Important Bird Areas was launched by BirdLife International at the Eleventh Conference of the Parties (COP11) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), in Hyderabad, India, on 16 October.

The e-Atlas covers 3,000 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) worldwide. It is the result of six years of effort that, to date, has involved around 40 BirdLife Partners, with the world’s leading seabird scientists from inside and outside the BirdLife Partnership, in collaboration with government departments of conservation, environment and fisheries, and the secretariats of several international conventions (CBD, EU Bird’s Directive, Nairobi Convention). Over 150 marine IBAs have already been recognised in the CBD process to identify Ecologically or Biologically Significant marine Areas (EBSAs).

The e-Atlas provides essential information for conservation practitioners and policy makers; for energy sector planners (windfarms, gas and oil exploration and drilling); for fisheries managers; for marine pollution management planners; and for the insurance industry.

Seabirds are now the most threatened group of birds. They present unique conservation problems, since many species travel thousands of kilometres across international waters and multiple Exclusive Economic Zones, and only returning to land to breed.

“Given the vast distances they cover, the long periods they spend at sea and the multiple threats they face there, identifying a network of priority sites for their conservation is vital to ensure their future survival”, said Ben Lascelles, BirdLife’s Global Marine IBA Coordinator.

The e-Atlas provides a model for inventories of areas of conservation importance for other mobile pelagic taxa, such as whales, turtles and sharks. IBAs have been found to capture a large and representative proportion of other biodiversity, providing a reliable and easily monitored way of identifying priorities for conservation. Effective management of IBAs will therefore help conserve a wider range of taxa and habitats. BirdLife has been working through the Global Ocean Biodiversity Initiative (GOBI) to link with other organisations working for the conservation of other marine taxonomic groups.

The e-Atlas represents a breakthrough in the format of BirdLife’s IBA inventories. It will be available exclusively online.

Like a Google Map, the e-atlas will be dynamically updated as new sites are identified and new data about them become available. It will be linked to other BirdLife data resources, including BirdLife’s species accounts, IBA fact sheets and State of the World’s Birds case studies.

“We hope that the e-atlas of marine IBAs will be a key resource for management of the oceans for years to come, and show the wider marine community the benefits that can be achieved when data are shared for conservation purposes”, said Ben Lascelles.

Home of the Azores Bullfinch receives tourism charter

Terras do Priolo (Lands of the Priolo) is the name given to a remote and beautiful area in the eastern part of the island of São Miguel in the Azores, the only place on earth in which the Endangered Azores Bullfinch, or Priolo Pyrrhula murina, is found. Nearly half its territory is included in protected areas.

Now Terras do Priolo has been awarded the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas by the EUROPARC Federation Council. The Charter is a practical management tool that enables all relevant stakeholders to work in partnership to develop a common sustainable tourism strategy and action plan, while maintaining and improving the conservation value of the area in the long term. The Charter has currently been assigned to 107 national parks and other protected areas in 13 countries. More than 100 people have been involved in the process for Terras do Priolo, including the major tourist companies and institutions responsible for tourism or conservation.

The Lands of the Priolo lie within two municipalities, Nordeste and Povoação, which have been relatively isolated from the rest of the island. This has allowed them to preserve their natural patrimony, culture and traditions. In addition to the Priolo, the area contains the most important remains of laurel forest in the Azores, and a large expanse of peatlands. These are the two main habitats being restored by the Laurel Forest Project, supported by the EU-LIFE initiative, and coordinated by SPEA, the BirdLife Partner in Portugal. A large volcano crater lake (Lagoa das Furnas), tall sea cliffs and high waterfalls complete the picture of a perfect destination for people in search of nature, tradition and calm.

A plan has been produced detailing the actions to be carried out between now and 2017. This plan includes coordination and conservation measures, the promotion of hiking trails and other sustainable activities in the protected area, cultural interpretation of the heritage, promotion of the territory as a tourist destination, improving the sustainability of tourist companies, and monitoring tourism and sustainability.

“The successful implementation of this plan should certainly be a decisive step towards the conservation of the enormous natural and cultural value of the Lands of Priolo, and we can also expect important economic benefits”, declared João Bettencourt, Regional Director of Environment of the Autonomous Region of Azores.

“The plan is an excellent example for the remaining network of Protected Areas in the region and the country”, said Luis Costa, Executive Director of SPEA. “But it is important to understand that this is just the beginning of the process. This charter is a commitment assumed by all the participants towards more sustainable tourism, and the 55 actions defined in the action plan must be fully implemented over the next five years.”

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | World Bird News | World Bird News 2012 |  World Bird News October 2012

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