Public Release: 

Few migratory birds are adequately protected across migration cycle

American Association for the Advancement of Science

Results from a new study reveal that just 9% of migratory birds receive adequate protection across their entire ranges. Migratory species of birds make major contributions to resource fluxes, biomass transfer, nutrient transport, predator-prey interactions, and food-web structure across ecosystems; yet more than half of migratory birds across all major migratory routes have declined in number significantly over the past 30 years, highlighting the need to better protect the areas on which these birds rely. To measure the existing distribution of protected areas for migratory birds, Claire Runge et al. mapped out the migratory routes of 1,451 species worldwide. They discovered that 91% of migratory bird species have inadequate protected area coverage for at least one part of their migration cycle, in contrast to 55% of non-migratory species. For threatened migratory species, the situation is worse, with less than 3% having adequate protected area coverage across all parts of their migration cycle. The differences in protection levels vary from country to country, although those in North Africa and Asia were found to offer the least. The researchers found that the wealth of a nation was a poor indicator of the protection it offers migratory species, where many Central American countries with low gross domestic product were found to meet targets for more than 75% of their migratory species, but these same species have lower levels of protected area coverage in Canada and the United States. The authors suggest that safeguarding the world's migratory birds will require better resourcing and use of existing international mechanisms to target new and expanded protected areas, enhance enforcement and management effectiveness, and greatly strengthen coordination between countries.


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