$3 billion wetland conservation project launched for birds, nature & people

Today, BirdLife announced an ambitious new collaboration with the Asian Development Bank and the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership to protect wetlands along one of the world’s major bird migration routes.

 

Every year, some 50 million waterbirds of over 200 different species migrate to the opposite end of the earth, travelling along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway – one of the world’s eight major bird migration superhighways. Stretching from Siberia and Alaska to Australia and New Zealand, the flyway connects a chain of coastal wetlands spanning 20+ countries, providing vital habitats where shorebirds can stop to feed, rest and refuel before continuing on the next leg of their journey.

“With the planet at a tipping point from the biodiversity and climate emergencies, this type of innovative, integrated, large-scale and broad approach is commensurate to the challenges… the conservation and financial framework we are establishing in this initiative will be scaled up and capable of being applied to the planet’s other important flyways.”

Patricia Zurita, BirdLife’s CEO

But these habitats don’t just benefit migratory birds. As well as hosting a thriving variety of other plants and animals, they also absorb vast amounts of carbon, helping to fight climate change. For the 200 million people that live in and around them, these wetlands are a lifeline. Every year, they protect the coast from the impacts of flooding, sea level rise and storm surges, and provide food, employment and recreation.

In the face of ongoing land reclamation, urbanisation and pollution, it is essential that these vital habitats and the services they provide are preserved – and this is a challenge that BirdLife is uniquely placed to tackle. With our globe-spanning Partnership structure, we have decades of experience linking together conservation organisations along flyways, working alongside local communities to develop solutions, and embedding nature conservation into a country’s government and economic frameworks.

Today, we have the historic opportunity to scale up our ongoing work thanks to the launch of the Regional Flyways Initiative: a partnership between the Asian Development Bank, BirdLife and the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership to secure at least $3 billion for wetlands conservation along this flyway. The initiative was launched at the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Conference of the Parties in Kunming, China, where the world’s nations are developing a new global framework to protect nature. It is the perfect example of the kind of all-encompassing approach needed in the coming decades.

“As we rebuild from the pandemic, we must seize the opportunity to secure a green, resilient, and inclusive future,” says Masatsugu Asakawa, president of the Asian Development Bank. “Our Flyway-wide approach is a great example of how we can do this through strong international cooperation.

Local people also benefit from coastal wetlands, for example by earning a living through traditional clam-sifting © Seocheon County

ian Development Bank is proud to lead on efforts like this, with a blended approach that brings together effective public and private finance.”

 

So what will this look like? Initially, the initiative aims to focus on protecting 50 priority coastal wetlands along the flyway. Conservation and habitat restoration activities will be funded using an innovative blended financial model that will mobilise investments from multiple private foundations, government bodies and regional development banks, making sure nature is integrated into the financial structures of the region. The project will actively involve local communities in all stages of design and execution, making special efforts to include women, indigenous people, and youth.

A pilot project in Yancheng Wetlands, China shows the scale of success that can be achieved by this approach. When the Jiangsu Yancheng Wetlands Protection Project began, more than half of the wetlands had been destroyed or degraded by human threats such as urbanisation, pollution, poaching and invasive species. With financing from the Asian Development Bank and the Global Environment Facility, the project supported the protection and management of two nature reserves and two forest farms, and provided sustainable employment opportunities for over 2,900 people in the area, including nature-friendly farming, fishing and ecotourism. 45 square kilometres of wetlands were restored, allowing waterbird populations to skyrocket by 365% in the Rare Bird Nature Reserve core zone. Building on foundations laid by this project, in 2019 the Yancheng Wetlands were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage natural site in July 2019.

With this exciting new opportunity, the future is looking a lot brighter – and not for just for the East Asian-Australasian Flyway.

Patricia Zurita, BirdLife’s CEO, says: “With the planet at a tipping point from the biodiversity and climate emergencies, this type of innovative, integrated, large-scale and broad approach is commensurate to the challenges… the conservation and financial framework we are establishing in this initiative will be scaled up and capable of being applied to the planet’s other important flyways.”

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