Sustaining birds and biodiversity in the wider landscape and seascape

P. Malczewski

Most of the world lies outside protected areas—as do most of the world’s birds. The fate of this wider environment is crucial for conservation: to link and buffer sites, to meet the requirements of wide-ranging species, and to maintain the familiar species that we know and value. Conservation at this scale requires policies that promote genuinely sustainable development, and that take nature into account alongside the needs of people.




Key messages and case studies

To conserve biodiversity, we must conserve the wider environment
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Safeguarding a global network of key biodiversity areas (including Important Bird Areas) will do much to protect biodiversity, but we must also attend to the wider fabric of nature that surrounds these sites. Key sites need to be linked and buffered to maintain a set of dynamic ecological processes, such as migration and dispersal (Forests in Sierra Leone and Liberia are being linked by the region’s first trans-boundary reserve). Coherently linking natural areas will be particularly important in light of climate change, enabling species’ ranges to more readily respond to shifting climatic zones (A landscape approach to conservation can help tackle climate change). In addition, many species, whether declining or not, have populations that are simply too spread out or nomadic to be conserved adequately by a fixed system of sites that covers only a small part of their range (Broad-scale conservation is needed alongside site-scale approaches to conserve threatened birds). Migratory species, in particular, require a coordinated response on a global scale (The flyways concept can help coordinate global efforts to conserve migratory birds).

Practical solutions for widespread threats
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Solutions for widespread threats include broad-scale approaches to maintaining or restoring the biodiversity value of transformed habitats (Conservation for birds and other biodiversity in Asia: a guide for governments and civil society, Reforming policy for both birds and agriculture in EuropeWildlife-friendly farming versus land sparingIntensive habitat management has led to a spectacular increase in Kirtland's Warbler ) and connecting networks of key biodiversity areas within degraded or intensively used landscapes (For birds and people in the Jordan Valley: a landscape approach). There are also practical ways of addressing specific issues such as hunting (Towards sustainable hunting in the Middle East, Developing a certification system for captive-bred birds in Indonesia, Hunting ban reversed decline of White-headed Duck in Spain, Local self-regulation can be more effective at ensuring sustainable resource use than outright ban), logging (Sustainable, locally-driven forestry can be more desirable than an outright logging ban) and powerlines (Safer powerlines for Hungary's birds).

Preserving traditionally-farmed landscapes for people and wildlife
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Many seemingly natural landscapes have in fact been formed by the interaction of people with nature, most significantly through agriculture (Traditional pastoralism is critical to the conservation of some of Asia’s most threatened birds). Across millennia these rural practices have influenced the character of biological communities so completely that a variety of species rely on these landscapes to survive (Cuba’s rice paddies are an important supplementary habitat for waterbirds). Many of these cultural landscapes, and the wildlife that has come to characterise them, are under threat. At the Tenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity held in October 2010, the Japanese government launched the Satoyama Initiative to promote and support ‘socio-ecological production landscapes’ for the benefit of both biodiversity and human well-being. However, it may prove difficult to maintain rural activities that have ceased to be economically viable. Proponents of rewilding advocate a more process-orientated perspective in conservation—one that allows natural ecological processes, and not traditional management prescriptions, to shape landscapes (Rewilding may offer a sustainable alternative to traditional management).