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State of the World’s Waterbirds: in trouble in Asia, recovering in ‘the West’


Nagoya, Japan - The rate of decline of waterbird populations has slightly decreased over the last three decades. However, 47% of the waterbird populations are still declining and only 16% are increasing. The status of waterbirds is improving  mainly in North America and Europe, while it is least favourable in Asia. Especially long distance migrants appear to be vulnerable.


These are the key findings of the State of the World’s Waterbirds 2010 (click to download) launched by Wetlands International on 21st October at theConference of the Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity in Nagoya, Japan. This publication analyses the changes in the status of waterbird populations between 1976 and 2005 using the data collected for the four editions of Waterbird Population Estimates published by the organisation since 1994.  



Unplanned economic development and weak conservation measures to blame

The status of waterbird populations is improving in regions where strong conservation legislation is implemented, such as North America and Europe.

However, the rate of decline of waterbird populations is increasing in all other regions without such instruments. The situation is especially alarming in Asia where 62% of waterbird populations are decreasing or even extinct. The combination of a rapid economical growth and weak conservation efforts appears to be lethal. Waterbird populations are exposed to a wide range of threats such as the loss and degradation of marshes and lakes, water regulation, agricultural intensification, hunting and climate change.

Long distance migrants

The status of long-distance migrant waterbirds is generally worse than of those remaining in regions with strong conservation measures. This highlights the importance of coordinated conservation measures across entire flyways from the breeding to the non-breeding grounds.


“It is not surprising that the rate of decline of the long distant migrant sandpipers, snipes and curlews has accelerated most rapidly. Now, 70% of their populations are decreasing. Halting destruction of their migratory staging areas is vital” says Prof Nick Davidson, Deputy Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. On the other hand, the improving status of many crane species demonstrates that targeted conservation actions for the protection of key sites can produce positive results. 




Action needed


“We feel we have to put more effort into the conservation of waterbirds in this region” states Mr. Daizaburo Kuroda, Senior Councilor, to the Japanese Minister of the Environment that supported the publication.



"The decline of waterbird populations in developing countries is an indication of the environmental problems in these parts of the world. The world community of governments that is gathering at the UN Conference in Japan should take action to reverse this trend” states Dr. Taej Mundkur, Wetlands International’s Flyway Programme Manager. 




For More information:

At COP 10 in Nagoya Dr.Taej Mundkur via

Alex Kaat (communications manager)

+31 (0)6 50601917


At our headquarters (Netherlands):

Simon Delany via

Sander Carpaij (communications officer)

+31 (0)318  660930




Notes to editors

This publication uses the Waterbird Index to compare the balance between declining and increasing populations for resident, short-distance migrant and long-distance migrant waterbird populations in each of the world’s three major waterbird flyways (The Americas, Africa-West Eurasia and East Asia-Australasia flyways). Summarised population trends are also presented for 17 waterbird family groups.

Waterbirds are one of the best known groups of animals in the world. Survey work coordinated in over 100 countries and at continental scales under the International Waterbird Census, organised by Wetlands International and partner organizations, started in 1967. 


Information from this census has been combined with data from many other sources into the four editions of Wetlands International’s Waterbird Population Estimates series. One result of this work is that we now have the basis of population estimates for over 75% of the world’s nearly 900 species of waterbirds. We also have estimates of population trends (whether numbers are increasing, stable or decreasing) for over half of these populations.

The publication was financially supported by the Japanese Ministry of the Environment and The UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).


Presentation by Taej Mundkur of Wetlands International



Communications and Media Coordinator

Wetlands International Africa

Phone: +221 33 869 16 81


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