Posted by: Dan | October 11, 2008

State of the World’s Birds

From BirdLife International comes the latest report on the State of the World’s Birds (SOWB).

On the SOWB website:

In 2002, the world’s governments took an unprecedented step, committing themselves to achieve a significant reduction in the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010. What can birds tell us about our current chances of achieving this ambitious but vital goal? The messages are mixed. We know much more about the state of biodiversity. And the world has become more aware of the environmental challenges that we face, particularly in the light of climate change. Despite this, our data show that the state of the world’s biodiversity, as reflected by its 9,856 living bird species, continues to get worse. Moreover, while governments have made verbal commitments to conserving biodiversity, the resources available for this fall far short of what is needed. It’s time to listen properly to what the birds are telling us, and start making changes that are positive and significant.

The SOWB website is one of the most comprehensive web resources for describing the state of avian biodiversity that I’ve yet seen. Sections include:

The entire 2008 publication can be found here [PDF].

Some more of the highlights from the full report:

Rare birds are getting rarer

At present one in eight of the world’s birds – 1,226 species – are Globally Threatened according to the IUCN Red List. Of these, 190 face an imminent risk of extinction. “The threat of extinction is real. Over the last three centuries 153 bird species are believed to have been lost forever – three species have vanished since 2000 alone”, warned Dr Bennun.

Birds help measure global progress towards biodiversity targets.

Globally agreed goals, such as the 2010 target to ‘achieve a significant reduction in the current rate of loss of biodiversity’, require a global monitoring system. Birds are at the forefront of producing such a monitoring system because they are found everywhere and are well monitored compared to other groups.

The 2010 Biodiversity Indicators Partnership (2010 BIP) is a global initiative to further develop and promote indicators for the consistent monitoring and assessment of biodiversity. BirdLife International is one of over forty organisations working to support the regular delivery of the 2010 biodiversity target indicators at the global and national levels.

In 2007, the Red List Index, which was initially designed and tested by BirdLife, was selected to be the basis of a new Millennium Development Goal (MDG) indicator, known as the ‘Proportion of species threatened with extinction’. Through such processes, birds will continue to play a vital role in monitoring progress towards conserving biodiversity in the years to come.

Protecting Important Bird Areas really helps

Important Bird Areas (IBAs) form a worldwide network of sites for the conservation of birds. BirdLife and its Partners have identified over 10,000 IBAs to date. When complete, this global network is likely to cover some 10 million km2 (c.7% of the world’s land surface) identified on the basis of about 40% of the world’s bird species.

The effective conservation of these sites will contribute substantially to the protection of the world’s biological diversity. While formal protection often remains the preferred option, other more innovative approaches can also be highly effective. These range from maximising the engagement of local communities to ensuring effective application of safeguard policies and Environmental Impact Assessment for development projects. In all cases a commitment to long-term engagement is the key to success.

Birds are important to people’s livelihoods

Conserving biodiversity and eliminating poverty are linked global challenges. The poor, particularly the rural poor, depend on nature for many elements of their livelihoods, including food, fuel, shelter and medicines. Working alongside people who will ultimately benefit from conservation can build social capital, improve accountability and reduce poverty. In contrast, excluding people from conservation actions can increase conflict, resentment and poverty.

Understanding how people experience poverty locally is essential in identifying how biodiversity conservation can help improve their livelihoods. BirdLife Partners have worked with communities to develop site-specific solutions to the problems they have identified. Examples include supporting agricultural development around Kabira National Park, Burundi, to help reduce pressure on the park’s land and resources, developing ecotourism to generate income at San Marcos, Bolivia, and improving management and marketing of non-timber forest products in Palas Valley, Pakistan.

BirdLife International Partners are increasingly engaging with diverse policy issues relevant to the conservation of biodiversity. Partners are tackling policy sectors that deal directly with biodiversity (such as forests, wildlife trade and the marine environment), but significantly they are also addressing policy sectors that have a major indirect impact, or cut across the other sectors (such as poverty reduction, conservation finance and tourism).


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