Baltic Waterbirds take a dive

07 Dec 2011  

Overall numbers have declined by more than 40% since the 1990s

DHI together with 13 other leading waterbird research institutes published a report presenting new and challenging results of a census of wintering waterbirds in the Baltic Sea. The studies reveal that overall numbers have declined by more than 40% since the 1990s.

Water Birds
Credits: Minden Pictures

Internationally coordinated counts were undertaken in 2007-2009 under the SOWBAS project (“Status of wintering waterbird populations in the Baltic Sea”), coordinated by DHI and funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers. The status of Baltic waterbirds was assessed using region-wide habitat models (learn more about our habitats and species solutions).

The total number of wintering waterbirds was estimated at 4.41 million, compared to 7.44 million during the last census in 1992-1993. Of the 20 species covered, 11 decreased, including 7 that declined by more than 30%. The strongest declines were suffered by seaducks. Numbers of Long-tailed Duck, the most numerous wintering waterbird in the Baltic, declined by 65%, with similar declines recorded for Steller’s Eider and Velvet Scoter. Common Eider, Common Scoter and Red-breasted Merganser all declined by between 42% and 51%.

The report includes an assessment of the various pressures to waterbirds and suggests that eutrophication control and climatic changes are major drivers behind the declining waterbird populations. For some of these species, the Baltic is the most important wintering area in the world, holding the majority of their global populations. The report and the issue of waterbird decline were covered by news releases by the global bird conservation NGOs: Wetland International, AEWA and BirdLife International.

Development of a new research framework and multi-species action plans for 2012

A coordinated response to the serious decline has been launched by Wetlands International, and an international workshop is planned for the 23-24th April 2012, to be held in the Czech Republic. It is hoped this will be a comprehensive workshop, involving participants from a number of disciplines in order to take stock of existing knowledge, and discuss future priorities. DHI will assist Wetlands International in staging the workshop, and will most likely get a key role during the development of a new research framework and multi-species action plans on seaducks during 2012. The greatest research needs are focused on the breeding and non-breeding status of the waterbirds in Russia.