Editorial: News from the BirdLife Partnership, June 2007
Welcome to this month’s BirdLife Editorial; an opportunity for us to summarise events and stories coming from BirdLife International - the world’s largest alliance of conservation organisations.
If May’s BirdLife news round-up was about the declining state of the world’s threatened birds, June was similarly concerning for the so-called widespread – loosely termed ‘common’- bird species.
This month Birdlife featured twin stories highlighting long term declines for common birds. The daunting statistics speak for themselves: a 50% decline for Europe’s farmland birds in just 25 years (Research confirms extent of Europe’s disappearing farmland birds, 7 June 2007) and in the US, Audubon (BirdLife in the US) reported that twenty different widespread bird species have seen populations fall at least by half since 1967. (US common birds in shocking decline, 14 June 2007)
The dramatic declines are attributed to a loss of healthy forests, wetlands and other critical habitats suffering a number of environmental threats: urban sprawl, climate change and agricultural intensification, in Europe driven by an ageing EU policy in urgent need of reform.
Statistics like these are of great concern. Both the European and American-based studies were the result of decades of data-gathering; combined efforts of an enormous numbers of organisations, many BirdLife Partners, their members and volunteers. And these results understandably set alarm bells ringing about the ongoing degradation throughout many of our well-known and widespread habitats.
Action is obviously needed with, of course, the support and backing of people, stakeholders and their governments. Yet such action depends on awareness in a world where there are multiple global issues vying for our urgent attention, not least poverty. This month though, conservation and poverty alleviation stood hand in hand (BirdLife call for unified approach in tackling global poverty and conserving biodiversity, 18 June 2007) at a meeting in London, organised in part by the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK). The meeting called for the environment and biodiversity to be at the heart of work to eliminate poverty and promote economic prosperity across the world and featured numerous organisations from both development and conservation sectors.
Fittingly, the meeting came on the same day BirdLife released its publication, ‘Conserving biodiversity, improving livelihoods’ – nine BirdLife case studies from around the world underlining the fact that poverty elimination and biodiversity conservation are issues that work most effectively when tackled side-by-side.
‘Conserving biodiversity, improving livelihoods’ answers perfectly one of the questions most often asked to us by journalists: “Why conserve biodiversity?” Answer: To conserve ecosystems that provide sustainable food, fuel, shelter, medicines and crucial elements of life and well-being...
Other news stories coming from the BirdLife Partnership this month show that there is work to be done yet before this concept is fully recognised. Seabird conservationists warned of another growing threat: trawling - itself an indicator of intensive fishing practices (Investment in albatross conservation crucial in tackling new trawling threats, 28 June 2007), while the plight of Fairy Pitta (and a number of other species) continues to be threatened by large-scale development at one of Taiwan’s forest Important Bird Areas (IBAs) (Dam raises global concerns over future of Fairy Pitta, 29 June 2007).
"...IBAs as a global conservation tool..."
The importance of IBAs as a global conservation tool were firmly underlined this month with news that the EU Commission was to step up ongoing infringement proceedings against ten EU Member States for failing to implement the EU Birds Directive and designate enough appropriate areas for the protection of birds. BirdLife’s Important Bird Areas (IBAs) provided the reference list for this process. (Commission puts its foot down on "failing" EU Member States, 27 June 2007) (Putting the SPA into Spain: European Court calls for action, 28 June 2007).
IBAs were also the subject of encouraging news from BirdLife’s Pacific region (New Caledonia latest to unveil IBA inventory, 12 June 2007). New Caledonia joins a long list of BirdLife Partners in producing their own IBA directory – a starting point that will, among other things, provide underlying data that will assess how habitat quality and biodiversity fares in future years – positive news for both threatened and ‘common’ birds on the islands, and encouraging too for livelihoods and local economies.
More next month,
Jules Howard, News Editor
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