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The Relevance of the Mediterranean Region to Colonial Waterbird Conservation

R. Michael Erwin
Colonial Waterbirds
Vol. 19, Special Publication 1: Ecology, Conservation, and Management of Colonial Waterbirds in the Mediterranean Region (1996), pp. 1-11
Published by: Waterbird Society
DOI: 10.2307/1521941
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1521941
Page Count: 11
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The Relevance of the Mediterranean Region to Colonial Waterbird Conservation
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Abstract

The Mediterranean Sea is the largest partially enclosed sea in the world and provides habitat to more than 100 species of waterbirds from the Palearctic-North African-Middle Eastern regions. Even though the Mediterranean suffers from pollution, has little tidal influence, and is oligotrophic, more than half of the western Palearctic populations of numerous waterfowl species winter in the region. Thirty-three species of colonial waterbirds breed along the 46,000 km Mediterranean coastline with nine species considered threatened or endangered, mostly because of wetland loss and degradation. The long history of human activity and scientific investigations in the region has taught some valuable lessons. In the area of colonial waterbird biology and conservation, we have learned important lessons about the value of long-term monitoring and research on selected populations. From marking studies of Greater Flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber roseus) and Little Egrets (Egretta garzetta) results have been used to derive useful information about metapopulation dynamics. Involvement of both African and European biologists allowed year-round studies of these species that yielded valuable spin-offs for training in avian and wetland conservation. We have also learned the value of man-made wetlands as feeding and nesting sites for some colonial waterbirds. Careful evaluations of the habitat quality of different types of wetlands are required, as in contaminant levels such as lead shot and pesticides. Wetland conservationists have also learned from some instructive mistakes. Dam construction and agricultural incentive programs sponsored by the European Community, the World Bank, and others from the past have largely ignored impacts on wetlands and wildlife. In some areas, economic ventures such as aquaculture operations and salt mining have not involved waterbird habitat needs in their planning. Research and conservation needs include: (1) establishing regional monitoring programs and data banks for seabirds, wading birds, ducks, and geese; (2) implementing a wetland inventory for many countries with little quantitative data on wetlands; (3) improving habitat quality assessments; (4) improving relationships with industry, the private citizenry, and government officials to further an appreciation for the value of wetlands and waterbirds; (5) enhancing training efforts, especially in underdeveloped countries; (6) evaluating the effects of hunting and other disturbances to nesting and feeding waterbirds in different regions; (7) setting up "sister-reserve" (twinned) sites in Europe and Africa to foster international linkages and training: and (8) fostering local-regional conservation programs to preserve reed beds, wet woodlots, and other key habitats.

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