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Europe and Central Asia
11 Jan 2016

From conservation research to on-the-ground species protection

The White-headed Duck is among the species whose protection is covered by the new LIFE Euro SAP. Photo: Agustin Povedano/Flickr
By Christina Ieronymidou

The European Red List of Birds, published in 2015, is the most up-to-date and authoritative dataset on the status and population trends of the 533 wild bird species in Europe. The list shows that 13% of species are threatened in Europe (10 are Critically Endangered, 18 Endangered and 39 Vulnerable) by dangers like loss of habitat and food sources, hunting, illegal killing and climate change.

A huge data mine like this has a number of uses. The list will be used to inform policy and identify priority species to include in research and monitoring programmes. BirdLife Partners and other bird conservationists will also continue to use The European Red List of Birds until it is updated.

The European Red List forms the third assessment of birds in Europe since 1994 and 2004. Periodical assessments such as these can be used to produce a comparative Red List Index to track the changing status of species, and the 2015 assessment will be used to update the Red List Index for European birds.

However, Red List status is just one piece of the puzzle when setting conservation priorities. For example, many bird species that are classified as of Least Concern under the IUCN Red List Criteria have since undergone significant long-term declines due to threats such as land-use change and illegal killing. In the previous Birds in Europe assessments of 1994 and 2004, a methodology was developed to build on the European Red List to help identify such Species of European Conservation Concern (SPEC): species that are depleted or declining over the long term. Consequently, the European Red List of Birds dataset will form the basis for identification of SPECs.

The data is also going to be used to prioritise species for new EU Species Action Plans (SAPs provide information on the status, ecology and the threats against species and describe key actions that are required to improve their conservation status in Europe) and EU Species Management Plans (MPs aim to restore to a favourable conservation status populations of huntable species in unfavourable status).

As part of a European Commission contract, in 2012, BirdLife together with the European Federation of Associations for Hunting and Conservation (FACE) developed a methodology to do exactly this, using importance (comparing the EU population to the global population), urgency (global and EU threat status of the species) and trend data (higher priority to species with smaller or declining populations). The species information collected for the Red List will allow us to update the list of priority species for action plans.

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In April 2015, BirdLife launched LIFE Euro SAP, a project that aims to redefine the concept of Species Action Plans. The project, coordinated by BirdLife International and involving 12 partners from across Europe, is funded by the European Commission LIFE programme, the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) and each of the project partners.

As part of this project, Species Actions Plans will be developed or updated for eight bird species, such as the Velvet Scoter and Bearded Vulture, a pilot Multi-species Action Plan will be developed to address eight of the most threatened European waders, such as the Northern Lapwing and Eurasian Curlew, and a system for coordination will be put in place so that the European Commission, EU Member States, international conventions and NGOs can work together more effectively for the conservation of bird species in Europe.


Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe.