Protection of migratory birds and their habitats for people and the planet

October 9, 2021


Photos credit: UNDP Kazakhstan Nesting of flamingo


Bird migration is a unique natural phenomenon. Approximately 2,000 of the 11,000 bird species in the world migrate, traveling hundreds and thousands of kilometers to find the best conditions and habitats.

However, nowadays, 14 percent of the world's bird species are endangered. Flying through dozens of countries, birds are witnessing a triple planetary crisis associated with climate change, loss of biodiversity and environmental pollution, experiencing its impact.


Photo: Curly pelican, Koshkin


According to UNEP, over the past 30 years, the number of migratory birds has almost halved, since they are at greatest risk during the migration season, so the survival rate of their chicks is rapidly decreasing from year to year. Destruction of ecosystems, habitat in places of stops and poaching, collisions with artificial objects in large cities, as well as power lines are a common cause of death of birds. All these factors lead to a reduction in the population of migratory birds, which threatens the preservation of the planet's biodiversity, and at the same time the well-being of mankind. Climate change is another serious threat to migratory birds, putting additional pressure on them and negatively affecting their habitat, which they need to reproduce and rest on the way. Climate change also affects the annual cycles of birds, affecting the timing of migration and reproduction.


White pelicans


Bird migration routes pass through different countries, and therefore joint actions of national governments, experts and local communities are needed to protect them.

Kazakhstan is on the way of flight and nesting of a dozen species of birds, such as pink flamingos, pelicans, cranes and others. The country is one of the priority states for the conservation of wetlands and waterfowl in Northern Eurasia - there are several dozen regions on its territory that meet the criteria of the Ramsar Convention. Wetlands are the most important element of the natural environment and play a significant role in the conservation of biodiversity and the economic development of the territories adjacent to them, which has an impact on improving the well-being of the local population.

Since 2004 in order to protect the biodiversity of globally significant wetlands the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), together with the Government of Kazakhstan, with the support of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), implemented a number of initiatives aimed at the integrated conservation of priority globally significant wetlands as nesting and habitat for migratory birds in Kazakhstan.


Autumn cluster of pink flamingos


Through the comprehensive scientific research on three project territories: the Teniz-Korgalzhyn and Alakol-Sasykkol lake systems and the delta of the Ural River with the adjacent coast of the Caspian Sea, data on the number, reproduction, habitat of pink flamingos, curly pelican, savka and other species of migratory birds were obtained.

The project contributed to the strengthening and improvement of national legislation on the management of wetlands and their resources, the expansion of the network of specially protected natural areas (protected areas) and Kazakhstan's fulfillment of the obligations assumed under the Ramsar and Bonn Conventions. Kazakhstan's accession to the Ramsar and Bonn Conventions is of no small importance for the conservation of biodiversity.


White Swans


As a result, the most important wetlands and populations of migrating waterfowl living in them were transferred to the protection of international legislation, at least 20% of the species composition of which are rare, specially protected species. In total, seven wetlands with a total area of more than 1.6 million hectares were included in the Ramsar List at the time of completion of the project activity.

According to Alexey Koshkin, a researcher at the Korgalzhyn Nature Reserve, the expansion of specially protected natural areas plays an important role in preserving the habitats of migratory birds and increasing their population.

"A significant result of the work of UNDP-GEF project to expand the territory of the reserve is an increase in population of species registered in the Red Book. In 2016 on Saumalkol Lake, which became part of the Korgalzhyn Reserve as a result of initiative of UNDP, high number of rare white-headed duck was counted about 15,000 individuals, in the region this figure was 25,000 individuals," said Alexey Koshkin.


Migration of pink flamingos


All three project areas have received the status of wetlands of international importance. The Korgalzhyn Reserve together with the Naurzum Reserve are included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, which are the first of the Central Asian countries. Within the framework of the project, effective methods of managing wetlands resources, the introduction of a management planning system in nature conservation areas and the introduction of methods of sustainable agriculture, fishing and hunting were demonstrated. A decade after the implementation of the project, it became possible to talk about the sustainability of the results achieved on the way to the protection and conservation of biological diversity of Kazakhstan.

The measures taken to protect migratory birds and their habitats within the framework of the United Nations Decade for Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030) are important for the conservation of biological diversity and the well-being of people around the world.