The Kollumerpomp Statement
The 2001 Conference commenced with a Workshop on the waders of European farmland. A wide-ranging programme of brief presentations had been organised and the abstracts of these appear elsewhere in the Bulletin. Although, most of this programme addressed issues relevant to breeding waders, the workshop commenced with a series of presentations on staging and wintering waders – in particular to Lapwings Vanellus vanellus and Golden Plovers Pluvialis apricaria.
In the morning, the first volumes of the major new Dutch publication on the cultural history of wilster-netting (and the scientific insights that this activity has given) were presented by the books editors to key collaborators. The workshop concluded with a wide-ranging discussion that commenced by reviewing the conclusions and recommendations of the last IWSG workshop on this theme – in 1989 in Ribe, Denmark. Whilst there has been some progress since that meeting in terms of research activity (and notably with many experimental wetland restoration projects now occurring across NW Europe), the overall plight of farmland waders in Europe appears to have become dramatically worse. Of particular concern was information presented regarding major declines of Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa in The Netherlands, and wide-scale collation of information on population trends in temperate breeding Ruff Philomachus pugnax. This indicates long-term declines in virtually every European country – even in situations where land-use change appears not to be a significant factor.
In the light of this poor overall situation, workshop participants drafted a Statement (below) which was unanimously agreed by the Annual General Meeting the following day. There was enthusiasm at the proposal to create a Wet Grassland Working Group (see elsewhere in the Wader Study Group Bulletin). The Group will act as a focus for information exchange on this topic within IWSG. The list of priority issues raised by the 2001 workshop, and given in the technical annex below, will provide an agenda for action. It is hoped to revisit some of these issues next year. First ideas are currently being developed for a workshop in Poland on conservation action for declining wader populations (including a review of globally threatened waders).
The Kollumerpomp Statement
The International Wader Study Group (WSG) held its 2001 Conference at Kollumerpomp, The Netherlands between 31 August and 2 September. It was attended by 153 scientists and wader experts from 17 countries across the world. A technical workshop on farmland waders was held on 31 August which reviewed current knowledge of the conservation status and population trends of waders breeding and wintering on farmland in Europe.
The participants agreed the following Resolution:
AWARE that European Union Member States have obligations under the 1979 EEC Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds to maintain the favourable conservation status of waders, including the need to establish protected areas, as well as taking “requisite measures to preserve, maintain or re-establish a sufficient diversity and area of habitats“;
Further aware that non-European Union signatories to the Berne Convention (the 1979 Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats) have assumed similar obligations;
NOTING the obligation of the signatory nations of the Ramsar Convention (which includes all European countries) to endeavour to wisely use all wetlands in their territories, whether or not these are formally listed under the Convention;
NOTING that, 12 years since the WSG reviewed the status of breeding waders on European farmland in 1989, negative population trends have continued and in many cases have become significantly worse;
NOTING further that the process of agricultural intensification has been, and remains, a highly significant factor in causing these declines;
INFORMED of the continental-scale decline in breeding Ruff Philomachus pugnax in the last two decades;
CONCERNED at the rapid extensive decline in numbers of breeding Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa in The Netherlands, the European stronghold of this species, and of the critical implications unless urgent actions are taken to address the causes of this decline;
RECOGNISING the need for regular re-assessments of population sizes and trends of breeding waders so as to monitor policy changes that will assist the recovery of populations;
AWARE that European Action Plans have been drafted by the Birds Directive’s Ornis Committee for quarry species in an unfavourable conservation status, including plans for Woodcock Scolopax rusticola, RedshankTringa totanus, Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa, Curlew Numenius arquata and Jack Snipe Lymnocryptes minimus; Recalling WSG input to these plans in 1998; but noting that they have yet to be fully implemented;
RECOGNISING the significant role that the International Wader Study Group — as an international network of specialists — can play in collating appropriate data and information relevant to the conservation and management of breeding wader populations, and thus assist others in necessary conservation actions; and
NOTING the technical conclusions of the workshop appended to this Resolution;
CONSIDERS that land management policies that can cause widescale (often continent-wide) declines in waterbird populations, cannot be considered as ‘wise-use’ of wetlands or other habitats;
STRONGLY URGES European Union Member States to fully implement Action Plans for Woodcock, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew and Jack Snipe (which aim to halt and reverse current negative trends) and for the European Commission to provide necessary co-ordination to this end;
CALLS FOR concerted action, at all levels and by all sectors, for positive conservation measures for Black-tailed Godwits throughout The Netherlands so as to restore the species to former levels of abundance;
URGES the WSG, working with others, urgently to collate and publish most recent assessments of national breeding wader population sizes and trends in Europe;
ENCOURAGES the establishment of a Wet Grassland Working Group within WSG to aid in exchange of information and expertise on waders breeding on farmland habitats;
HIGHLIGHTS the continuing need for information on habitat management for breeding waders to be appropriately targeted to farmers and other land managers;
AND REQESTS that this Resolution be transmitted to the European Commissioners responsible for agriculture and the environmental policy, the Ramsar Bureau, the Secretariat of the Berne Convention, the Technical Committee of the African- Eurasian Waterbird Agreement, and the Dutch Government, both for their information and to ask them to respond to the issues raised.
ANNEX: Technical conclusions
The Workshop on farmland waders reviewed the concluding statement of the last conference on this theme held by the International Wader Study Group in Ribe, Denmark, in 1989. Whilst there has been progress in some research areas, conservation needs remain as pressing now as they did then.
A range of points was noted in discussion, and the Wet Grassland Working Group will endeavour to promote appropriate actions related to these.
Survey and monitoring
- There remains a need for better surveillance and monitoring of breeding wader populations in Europe. Common standards of survey should be promoted to give greater consistency, but pragmatic solutions which may statistically ‘merge’ results derived from different monitoring programmes should continue to be explored. WSG should liaise with the European Bird Census Committee to encourage appropriate activity.
- Both Iceland and Russia hold very significant proportions of European totals of some wader populations, although information on population sizes in these countries is of low precision. Further survey work in these areas is a priority and should be encouraged.
- There is merit in the promotion of simple, and rapid, survey and monitoring techniques that might be extensively applied on a sample basis.
- The implications of increase habitat fragmentation for breeding wader populations should be explored.
- The role of predation, and increases in predator numbers, on breeding waders needs to be better understood.
- The implications of increasing use of antihelmithic drugs on cattle and sheep for soil invertebrates is unclear. These may be having significant effects on the food supply of waders.
- There is generally poor understanding of the significance of soil invertebrates for the breeding and feeding ecology of waders. Initiatives that lead to a greater integration of soil science with wader research, and to a monitoring of soil biomass, are needed.
- In undertaking relevant research there is need for explicit hypothesis testing and greater use of formal experimentation to resolve management options.
- There is an urgent need to resolve the causes of the rapid decline of Dutch Black-tailed Godwit populations.
- Implications of ever more intensive forms of farming and agricultural technology need to be kept under review. Development of new techniques of slurry spreading and silage cutting were mentioned as examples.
- It was strongly recommended that greater use be made of modelling population processes as a guide to development of research agendas as well as to assist the formulation of policy options.
Habitat management needs
- There is a need for information on the management of winter cereals for Lapwings and other waders wintering in this habitat.
- The implications of different habitat mosaics for breeding wader populations is unclear and should be investigated.
- Generally, there is a range of good technical information on appropriate habitat management for breeding waders. The issue now lies in ensuring its dissemination to land-managers and appropriate application. To this end, the dissemination of easily understood, non-technical summaries of sympathetic management is a priority. The ‘farmer-friendly’ material produced in The Netherlands by nest protection schemes was noted as a good example.
- The management of protected areas, whether for breeding waders or otherwise, should be driven by a statement of explicit aims formulated in the context of a site management plan. As noted in 1989, such management planning should make full provision for monitoring (the costs of which should be included in necessary budgets).
- The importance of wader populations in the EU accession states of eastern European was noted. These are of major significance, yet are potentially at risk from intensification processes should the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), in its current form, be implemented in these countries. The reform of the CAP is complex, and a range of innovative new policies are needed for application both within the current Union and in the accession states. These could include the development of premiums for ‘wildlife-friendly farming’, eco-taxation, and extensification of farming to encourage the boosting of rural incomes through eco-tourism and other such activities.
- Links between the Wet Grassland Working Group and the European Forum for Nature Conservation and Pastoralism should be developed so as to share knowledge and information of joint significance, in particular, relevant aspects of agricultural policy reform.
- The abandonment of farmland in many areas of Europe is a potentially serious issue for breeding waders.
- There may be a need to review Annex I of the Birds Directive to ensure that it reflects appropriately the current status of European bird species.
- There is an urgent need to halt and reverse the decline of Black-tailed Godwits in the Netherlands.
- The implementation of Annex II Action Plans for Woodcock, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew and Jack Snipe by EU Member States is an urgent need.