Climate variability and change and other pressures on wetlands and waterbirds: impacts and adaptation

Colin Finlayson, Habiba Gitay, Maria Bellio, Rick van Dam, Iain Taylor

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter


As many wetland habitats and waterbird species are currently under great pressure, we propose that quantitative risk assessments of individual and multiple pressures at multiple sites along flyways and at major wetlands are undertaken as a basis for developing adaptation options for these species and ecosystems.The atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased since the pre-industrial era due to human activities,primarily the combustion of fossil fuels and changes in land use and land cover. These, together with natural forces, have contributed to changes in the Earth's climate(both mean and variability) over the twentieth century; land and ocean surface temperatures have warmed, the spatial and temporal patterns of precipitation have changed, sea level has risen, and the frequency and intensity of El Niño events have increased. These changes have affected wetlands and their biota, especially in coastal and high latitudes, including the timing of reproduction of species, migration of animals, the length of the growing season and the frequency of pest and disease outbreaks. The Earth's mean surface temperature is projected to warm by 1.4 to5.8°C by the end of the twenty-first century, with land areas warming more than the oceans, and high latitudes warming more than the tropics. Sea level is projected to rise by 0.09 to 0.88 m,and is expected to have further effects on wetlands and their biota either directly (e.g. through changes in sea level and/or increased temperatures) or indirectly (e.g. through changes in hydrology, fire regime and pest outbreaks). These changes will increase the risk of extinction of vulnerable species, and could drastically alter the migration patterns of many others.Populations of some species will decline, whilst some will increase in both size and distribution. The consequences of climate change and variability for waterbirds is likely to be large, but our understanding of the role of climate change versus all the other changes due to human activities (such as changes inland use and land cover, drainage, invasive species etc.) is undermined by the limited extent of our data and existing knowledge.In all but a few cases, the data are totally inadequate.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWaterbirds around the world
Subtitle of host publicationa global overview of the conservation, management and research of the world's waterbird flyways
EditorsC A Galbraith G C Boere, D A Stroud D A A Stroud
Place of PublicationEdinburgh, UK.
PublisherThe Stationery Office
Number of pages10
Edition1 Illustrated / 2.6
ISBN (Print)0114973334
Publication statusPublished - 2006


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