Letter

Successful conservation of global waterbird populations depends on effective governance

  • Nature volume 553, pages 199202 (11 January 2018)
  • doi:10.1038/nature25139
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Abstract

Understanding global patterns of biodiversity change is crucial for conservation research, policies and practices. However, for most ecosystems, the lack of systematically collected data at a global level limits our understanding of biodiversity changes and their local-scale drivers. Here we address this challenge by focusing on wetlands, which are among the most biodiverse and productive of any environments1,2 and which provide essential ecosystem services3,4, but are also amongst the most seriously threatened ecosystems3,5. Using birds as an indicator taxon of wetland biodiversity, we model time-series abundance data for 461 waterbird species at 25,769 survey sites across the globe. We show that the strongest predictor of changes in waterbird abundance, and of conservation efforts having beneficial effects, is the effective governance of a country. In areas in which governance is on average less effective, such as western and central Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and South America, waterbird declines are particularly pronounced; a higher protected area coverage of wetland environments facilitates waterbird increases, but only in countries with more effective governance. Our findings highlight that sociopolitical instability can lead to biodiversity loss and undermine the benefit of existing conservation efforts, such as the expansion of protected area coverage. Furthermore, data deficiencies in areas with less effective governance could lead to underestimations of the extent of the current biodiversity crisis.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the coordinators, thousands of volunteer counters and funders of the International Waterbird Census and Christmas Bird Count (see Supplementary Notes for information on funders); D. Unterkofler for preparing the NWC data, H. Okamura for statistical advice, J. P. González-Varo for his comments on an earlier draft and M. Amano for long-standing support.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Conservation Science Group, Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, The David Attenborough Building, Pembroke Street, Cambridge, CB2 3QZ, UK

    • Tatsuya Amano
    •  & William J. Sutherland
  2. Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, University of Cambridge, 16 Mill Lane, Cambridge, CB2 1SG, UK

    • Tatsuya Amano
  3. Milner Centre for Evolution, Department of Biology and Biochemistry, University of Bath, Bath, BA2 7AY, UK

    • Tamás Székely
  4. Department of Evolutionary Zoology, University of Debrecen, Debrecen, H-4010, Hungary

    • Tamás Székely
  5. Department of Biology, Santa Clara University, 500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, California 95053, USA

    • Brody Sandel
  6. Wetlands International Head Office, Horapark 9, 6717 LZ Ede, The Netherlands

    • Szabolcs Nagy
    • , Taej Mundkur
    •  & Tom Langendoen
  7. Wetlands International LAC Argentina Office, Capitán General Ramón Freire 1512, Buenos Aires 1426, Argentina

    • Daniel Blanco
  8. National Audubon Society, Conservation Science, 220 Montgomery St., Suite 1000, San Francisco, California 94104, USA

    • Candan U. Soykan

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Contributions

T.A., T.S. and W.J.S. designed the study. T.A., T.S., B.S., S.N., T.M., T.L., D.B. and C.U.S. collected and prepared data for the analyses. T.A. analysed the data and wrote the paper. All authors discussed the results and commented on the manuscript at all stages.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Tatsuya Amano.

Reviewer Information Nature thanks R. Fuller and the other anonymous reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Publisher's note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Extended data

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    Supplementary Information

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    Life Sciences Reporting Summary

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    Supplementary Data

    This file contains Supplementary Data 2, see the Supplementary Information document for a full description. Supplementary Data set 1 is available at https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.5669827

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