Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation launches framework for the protection of breeding birds in the Wadden Sea

The Joint Monitoring Group for Breeding Birds (JMBB) has launched a framework for an action plan for the protection of breeding birds in the Wadden Sea.

Eieren op het strand. Broedvogels Waddenzee. Foto: pixabay.

This document was prepared in line with the outcome of the 12th Trilateral Governmental Conference on the Protection of the Wadden Sea, held in Tønder, Denmark on 4–5 February 2014). In the Ministerial Council Declaration issued by this meeting Ministers expressed concern about the the persistent decrease of breeding birds in the Wadden Sea and instructed the Wadden Sea Board to develop and implement a trilateral Action Plan in order to improve the conditions for breeding birds.

The decline of breeding birds, including redshank, oystercatcher, avocet, lapwing, black-tailed godwit, common tern, arctic tern and herring gull, seems to be mostly related to their poor breeding success. Several factors contributing to this poor breeding success were identified in a publication that was launched earlier this year (please click here). These include predation risks, flooding, starvation, unfavourable weather, and trampling by livestock grazing. Several initiatives were taken to improve the breeding conditions or to implement compensation measures for the loss of habitat. However, these are often treated as stand-alone projects in smaller sections of the Wadden Sea.

According to Gerold Lüerßen, Deputy Secretary of the Common Wadden Sea Secretariat, responsible for coordination of bird monitoring and data management, “the current framework for an action plan is a trilateral document, and applies to the entire Wadden Sea area across the three states. Such an international perspective is extremely important, since we see that breeding birds are facing similar challenges across the Wadden Sea area. There are ample opportunities to improve the collaboration across the region and to exchange best practices to counter the decline of breeding birds.”

The specific management measures proposed in the framework include:
- habitat restoration, including the restoration of saltmarshes, coastal grasslands and dune areas, the opening of summer dikes, the creation of inland breeding sites, and the implementation of bird-friendly farming practices;
- habitat management, including the improved management of livestock grazing in breeding sites, and the management of vegetation in newly created inland breeding sites;
- predation management, through predator control, fencing, and measures to keep the islands predator-free;
- reduction of man-made barriers on breeding sites, such as stone walls, groynes, pipes etc.; and
- visitor management, including the establishment of visitor-free areas, and increased surveillance in breeding sites.

The impact of other hazards, such as sea level rise leading to the flooding of nest sites and food shortages among breeding birds (which might be partly caused by fishing activities), are not fully understood, nor can these challenges be easily addressed. Therefore, the measures mentioned above aim to minimise at least a number of the adverse factors that cause the low breeding success, in order to improve the ability of populations to endure other hazards.

About the monitoring of breeding success in the Wadden Sea
Monitoring of breeding success in the Wadden Sea has been part of the Trilateral Monitoring and Assessment Programme (TMAP) since 2009. It is, like the chemical analysis of breeding bird eggs, an important addition to the monitoring of abundance and distribution, as it allows for the detection of the causes for changes in breeding bird numbers, which can then be more directly linked to management measures.

Report details:

Title: Breeding birds in trouble: A framework for an action plan in the Wadden Sea
Lead author: Kees Koffijberg, Joint Monitoring for Breeding Birds Group (JMBB)
Publisher: Common Wadden Sea Secretariat, Wilhelmshaven (Germany)