Aquatic Warblers severely hit by droughts in
Breeding sites in Europe rapidly overgrowing
with reed and excessive droughts destroying wintering grounds in
Africa are affecting very fragile Aquatic Warbler population in
The BirdLife International Aquatic Warbler Conservation Team (AWCT)
uniting experts from Germany, Poland, Hungary, Latvia and Belarus
gathered in Lithaunia on 12-14 June in order to assess the progress
of the Baltic Aquatic Warbler project implemented here to provide
their recommendations, present new conservation projects and
exchange best practice examples.
This year the population of globally threatened species experienced
an unprecedented crash, dr. Martin Flade, the AWCT chairman noted.
This fact reinforced the need for new conservation strategies and
measures to be developed urgently.
The latest monitoring results show decrease of approximately 1/3 in
each of the countries where Aquatic Warblers breed – Lithuania,
Poland, Belarus and Ukraine. One exception could be sustainably
managed areas in the Biebrza National Park in Poland where the
population remained stable. The Lithuanian Baltic Aquatic Warbler
project is in close cooperation with their neighbours exchanging the
Habitats of Aquatic Warbler are threatened around the world – in
Europe they are abandoned or used too intensively, while in Northern
Africa – transformed into rice fields, hotel areas, or overgrazed.
Against this backdrop, saving every single bird becomes a priority,
experts say. Therefore habitat restoration and management in
Lithuania, where little over 60 birds have been counted this year,
is of utmost importance.
Many unknowns remain
Suitable habitat conditions for this species and necessary
management measures are rather well described by scientists. Data
exist from most breeding areas as well as from France and Spain
where Aquatic Warblers stay and feed during migration periods.
Wintering sites have been recently discovered in Africa.
However, conservationists remain concerned over the recent
population crash in Hungary. Hungarian experts currently analyse the
long-term effects of a fire that destroyed 1/3 of habitat in 2003,
and extreme flooding events of Tisza River in 2006 and 2010 on the
Scientists are still trying to define exact migration routes and
link breeding grounds with wintering sites. Once such attempt
facilitated by ringing ACROLA project successfully linked Ukraine
and Mali for the first time last year. Tracking with so-called
geolocators is another method which contributes to the improved
knowledge about migration of Aquatic Warbler.
Meanwhile in Poland there are efforts to maximise effectiveness of
the use of late-cut biomass as a biofuel.
However, many aspects of species adaptation strategies remain
unknown and conservation strategies are constantly improved thanks
to ongoing research efforts, as demonstrated by the meeting which
took place in Rusne, Lithuania.
Dr. Alexander Kozulin, researching Aquatic Warbler in Belarus,
contends that globally the survival of the species largely depends
on so-called core populations at sites with near-natural habitat
conditions (mostly brown moss sedge mires) with rather big and
stable numbers of Aquatic Warblers. In Lithuania, Tyrai mire (28-29
singing males counted this year) can be regarded as a core habitat.
Another rather similar habitat, but with a currently very small
Aquatic Warbler population is in the Zuvintas Biosphere Reserve.
Management of all current Aquatic Warbler breeding sites is
crucially important and in habitat restoration, a particular,
priority should be given to such core population habitats.
More images from the meeting in the picture
Environmental Communication Expert
Baltic Environmental Forum Lithuania
Agricultural transformation of wintering grounds in
Photo: Martin Flade
AWCT chairman Dr. Martin Flade and Arunas Pranaitis,
director of Zuvintas Biosphere Reserve Directorate
Photo: Zymantas Morkvenas
Some 60 ha of the mire has been already mown at the
project site in Lithuania
Photo: Vaida Pilibaityte