15 November 2007

Strategy for Asian Waterbird Conservation Released

By James Ed. Ducey

An Asian Waterbird Census Strategy document has just been released by Wetlands International.

“Its target is that by 2015, a high quality, standard waterbird monitoring programme will be carried out in all countries in the Asia-Pacific region which covers most of the international important wetland sites for waterbirds,” said David Li Zuowei, the AWC International Coordinator for Wetlands International. “The AWC strategy is the major output of the AWC Coordinators' Meetings held in 2003 and 2006 for achieving a high standard waterbird monitoring programme in the Asia-Pacific region.”

“The Asian Waterbird Census has rapidly developed to become the largest biodiversity monitoring programme in the Asia-Pacific region, monitoring millions of waterbirds and their key wetland areas in the region,” according to details on the groups website. “The Asian Waterbird Census: Development Strategy 2007-2015 is intended to function as a guide not only for Wetlands International and the organisations that coordinate the Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) in the region but also for each individual who participates, supports or expresses interest in the AWC.”

The Asian Waterbird Census covers South, East and Southeast Asia (including eastern Russia) and Australasia. A number of groups are involved in the programme, including the Australasian Wader Studies Group, Bird Conservation Society of Thailand, Hong Kong Bird Watching Society, Malaysian Nature Society, and Singapore Nature Society, for example.

Countries which are part of the Asian Waterbird census programme. Participating countries are shown in blue. From the Asian Waterbird Census Strategy.

The “objectives and priority actions to develop the Asian Waterbird Census in 2007–2015” are:

To enhance geographic and site coverage of the AWC.
To ensure the high quality of AWC data collected in order to monitor waterbird populations effectively and support the implementation of conservation actions.
To develop a fundraising strategy for the AWC and seek funding opportunities to support its development.
To build the capacity of national networks to monitor waterbirds and wetlands.
To enhance communication and public awareness of the AWC.
To support improved decision making on waterbird and wetland conservation at national and international levels.
To develop a coordination mechanism for effective operation and targeting of the AWC.

For each objective, the report discusses 25 specific actions to be undertaken, and 83 steps for their implementation.

“The strength of the AWC is that it is a long-term, volunteer-based international network that has been able to continue despite a low input of resources,” the report says. “The Asian Waterbird Census programme was initiated in the Indian subcontinent in 1987 in the framework of the International Waterbird Census, which had successfully been running from the mid Sixties in Europe. Since its inception, the AWC has rapidly developed to become the largest biodiversity monitoring programme in the Asia-Pacific region. To date, more than 6,300 sites from 27 countries have been surveyed, with the active participation of tens of thousands of volunteers.”

During the first year of the programme, there were 345 sites surveyed, and within two years, the number increased to over 1000. Numbers have fluctuated since then, and in 2004, the most recent year given in the strategy report, 1075 sites were surveyed.

“A review of the development of the AWC over the past 20 years clearly reveals that the programme has seen many achievements,” said Mr. Li, in a posting on the Oriental Birding forum. “Its greatest strength has been its ability to mobilise large networks of volunteers to undertake the census work. However, there have also been challenges, typical of the problems in many developing Asian countries. Major issues are the lack of adequate census capacity, equipment and financial support, and changes in levels of volunteer interest, resulting in inconsistent site coverage and data quality. Because, worldwide, financial resources for this work are very limited, it has not been possible to provide support strong enough to make a significant improvement to these constraints.”

The AWC aims to contribute to the conservation of waterbirds and their wetland habitats by:

  • “providing the basis for estimates of waterbird levels ranging from local to global by supporting populations;
  • “monitoring changes in waterbird numbers and distribution by regular, standardised
  • “improving knowledge of little-known waterbird species and wetland sites;
  • “identifying and monitoring (networks of) sites that are important for waterbirds in general and, more specifi cally, identifying and monitoring sites that qualify as Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands;
  • “providing information on the conservation status of waterbird species and wetland sites, for use by international agreements and other nitiatives;
  • “increasing awareness of the importance of waterbirds and their wetland habitats at local, national and international levels.”

This programme is part of the International Waterbird Census, which includes the Western Palaearctic and Southwest Asia, and some countries in Africa and South America. These regions are not part of the Asian Waterbird Census strategy.

Asian Waterbird Census Strategy 2007-2015

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