Icelandic meadow-breeding waders: status, threats and conservation challenges


19 – 27

1 April 19

Lilja Jóhannesdóttir, Jennifer A. Gill, José A. Alves, Tómas Grétar Gunnarsson


Lilja Jóhannesdóttir
South Iceland Research Centre, University of Iceland, Lindarbraut 4, Laugarvatn IS-840, Iceland & South East Iceland Nature Research Centre, Litlubrú 2, Höfn IS-780, Iceland


Public Files

Populations of many migratory wader species around the world are in serious decline, largely caused by anthropogenic activities. Throughout the developed world, agricultural expansion and intensification have been identified as among the main drivers of these declines. However, not everywhere have agricultural activities reached levels where negative impacts on breeding waders are apparent. Since settlement, Icelandic farmers have largely been self-sufficient in agricultural productivity, and substantial expansion of agricultural land only began after the 1940s. Agricultural expansion has continued since then and today around 7% of area below 200 m a.s.l. (areas at higher altitudes are typically unsuitable) is used for cultivation. Large areas of natural or semi-natural habitats are therefore still common and widespread in Iceland, and the current mosaic-like landscape created by areas of agricultural land within these habitats may help to provide the resources needed by the very large populations of waders that breed in the country. Wader species have all been protected from hunting and egg-collecting by law since the 20th century. However, lowland landscapes in Iceland are changing quite rapidly, as a result of agricultural expansion, afforestation, shrub encroachment and widespread construction of summer cottages, and all of these developments pose potential threats to these species. Predictions of the potential impact of current and future land use changes on these species is hampered by limited information on population dynamics, and no specific conservation efforts are currently aimed at meadow-breeding waders in Iceland.