Bird data help to shape and track biodiversity plans

M. K. Poulsen/BirdLife International

Globally agreed goals, such as the 2010 target and the Millennium Development Goals for 2015, require a global monitoring system. No such system yet exists for biodiversity, but progress is being made—with birds at the forefront. Birds are easy to monitor, and many people around the world do so, often as volunteers, generating information of vital importance for our future. Overall, birds provide a wonderful window onto nature, a route for environmental engagement and a focus for positive change.



Key messages and case studies

Are we on track to achieve our targets
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Is the world making progress towards the goal, agreed at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, to achieve "a significant reduction in the current rate of loss of biological diversity" by the year 2010? Are we on track to "ensure environmental sustainability" (Millennium Development Goal 7) and to "reverse the loss of environmental Resources" (Millennium Development Target 9)? Unfortunately, it is difficult to tell. There is presently no systematic global framework for generating and interpreting data on the loss of biodiversity.

Bird data will be key for a global biodiversity monitoring system
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The challenges of setting up a global system for monitoring biodiversity are big. Such a system will have to rely on sampling, since we can’t measure everything everywhere. Bird populations are much easier to monitor than many other components of biodiversity, and many people around the world do so, often as volunteers (Citizen scientists help push conservation forwards). Birds can thus make a major contribution to a global monitoring scheme (Bird indicators make a major contribution to measuring the 2010 target). Bird data often exist in the form of extensive, high quality, internationally standardised datasets, some offering continental coverage across a network of sites (Monitoring Important Bird Areas in Africa) and wide range of habitats. In some countries there are long time-series of data, often resulting from annual monitoring (Birds as a 'Quality of Life' indicator in the United Kingdom). Elsewhere, local knowledge surveys can provide valuable insights as well as building local constituencies (Local knowledge surveys can help track threatened species: the example of Horned Curassow, In Canada, the traditional knowledge of Cree hunters is helping map changing migration patterns). Engaging communities in the monitoring of biodiversity can help develop local conservation capacity (Involving local communities in the assessment and monitoring of biodiversity). Analysis of bird data can provide solid evidence for good practice and help us understand successes and failures (Bird data can provide solid evidence for the effectiveness of conservation management interventions, IBA monitoring can identify deficiencies in national biodiversity policy) as well as allow us to keep track of general trends in biodiversity.

Birds provide a focus for positive change
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Birds are an excellent gateway to understanding the environment. Appreciating birds and their conservation problems leads to a deeper understanding of our relationship with the Earth. Building from a focus on birds, local pride in special wildlife can grow, leading to the development of democratic structures, empowering individuals and communities to take control and ensure wise use of their own resources. Birds can thus help to bring about real, positive changes.