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CMS Eighth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties
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CMS Holds Roundtables Prior to COP-8

On Saturday 19 November 2005, the Secretariat of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) held two roundtables, on migratory species and climate change and on avian influenza respectively, prior to the CMS Eighth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-8), which is scheduled to open on Sunday afternoon 20 November.

Saturday, 19 November
Roundtable on migratory species and climate change

The roundtable on migratory species and climate change took place on Saturday morning, moderated by Alexander Alusa, Deputy Director of UNEP's Division of Environmental Conventions, and based on the findings of the recently-released report "Climate Change and Migratory Species" commissioned by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Jim Knight, UK Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Rural Affairs, Landscape and Biodiversity, made some opening remarks on the rising importance of climate change on the political agenda and the need to integrate consideration of climate change effects on biodiversity, and migratory species in particular. He highlighted the need for climate change debates to offer hope to people and motivate them to act, and noted that migratory species can offer an important indicator of the effects of climate change.

Manuel Guariguata, Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), made a presentation on the interlinkages between biodiversity and climate change and their implications for achieving the 2010 target to reduce biodiversity loss. He illustrated observed and projected impacts on migratory species, such as timing of reproduction and migration, species distribution shifts, increased frequency of pests and disease outbreaks, and possible extinction of species with restricted habitat requirements, limited climatic ranges, or low population numbers. He made suggestions on how to incorporate biodiversity considerations into climate change mitigation and adaptation activities, in particular through restoring biologically diverse ecosystems and switching varieties in intensively managed ecosystems.

Humphrey Crick, British Trust for Ornithology, discussed the general patterns of climate change effects and reviewed impacts on different taxonomic groups, highlighting the special problems of migratory species linked to their migration routes, stopover sites, and breeding and non-breeding areas. He made suggestions for future action, including maintaining wetland quality, protecting vulnerable habitats and ensuring coherent networks of stopover sites. He also called for reduction of other pressures on migratory species, and highlighted the importance of climate change mitigation measures for marine species and adaptation responses for terrestrial species.

Peter Boye, German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, provided a German perspective on biodiversity and climate change, highlighting the immigration of Mediterranean species, increased problems with alien species and limited adaptive capacity of long-distance migrants. He said that challenges in Germany concern research on climate change impacts on migratory species, development of regional scenarios, and conservation of large vital populations, of habitat connectivity in highly developed areas and of carbon sinks. Noting the different challenges in global regions, he concluded that CMS is the best international instrument to cope with climate change impacts on migratory species.

Max Finlayson, Chair of the Ramsar Convention Scientific and Technical Review Panel, presented methods and data for vulnerability assessment of climate change impacts on important habitats for migratory species, based on examples from Eastern Asia and Northern Australia. He explained that the method was based on: risk assessments, reflecting current status and trends; risk perception, reflecting sensitivity and adaptive capacity; and risk management and minimization, to develop responses. He noted the importance of training local personnel and conducing assessments in collaboration with local authorities.

Mark Simmonds, Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, presented on climate change and marine apex predators, stressing that case studies are not yet available. He illustrated projected effects of climate change on marine mammal populations with limited habitats, living next to the ice edge, or affected by disease events and toxic algal blooms. He reported that evidence is being gathered on climate change impacts on predator-prey relationships, distribution shifts, sea-ice changes, and breeding success. Concluding that predictions of likely consequences on marine mammals are increasingly underpinned by science, he emphasized that the available information is inadequate to identify species that are particularly at risk.

Colin Limpus, CMS Scientific Councilor, introduced a case study on climate change impacts on turtles, describing them as "great survivors of climate change." He illustrated how turtles adapt to the effects of climate change by changing breeding sites, nesting behavior, and migratory routes. Given the slow pace of turtles' adaptation, he highlighted, among other things, the need for protection of cooler, low-density nesting beach habitats, coral reefs and seagrass pastures, while the international community works to mitigate climate change.

Robert Hepworth, CMS Executive Secretary, concluded the roundtable, describing it as a bridge between scientists and COP-8 policymakers. He expressed the hope that COP-8 will indicate how CMS can engage in addressing the impacts of, and adaptation to, climate change, in particular through its concerted and cooperative action, outreach and communication plan, Global Register on Migratory Species, and synergies with other conventions.
Roundtable on migratory species as vectors of diseases: Myth or reality?

The roundtable on migratory birds as vectors and victims of avian influenza commenced on Saturday afternoon and will continue on Sunday morning. The roundtable is moderated by Sekou Toure, Director of UNEP's Regional Office for Africa. Jim Knight opened the roundtable, stressing the need to update risk assessment, based on the recent evidence that wild birds can carry highly pathogenic avian influenza, and to inform the debate without alarming people unnecessarily. He called for a common approach to such a global issue, and endorsed UNEP-CMS funding for an early warning system to be discussed during the COP.

Colin Galbraith, CMS Scientific Council Chair, suggested a research agenda for migratory species as vectors of the disease, highlighting the need to quantify risks and develop appropriate measures to limit contacts with humans. He praised the coordinating role of the Scientific Task Force on Avian Influenza, and suggested that a CMS resolution on avian influenza, to be discussed by COP-8, focus on research and funding. He also proposed that the CMS Scientific Council intersessional work help in keeping the focus on avian influenza.

Ward Hagemeijer, Wetlands International, reported on the relationship between avian influenza and wild birds, confirming that wild birds can carry the high-pathogenic form of the virus. He noted the low risk of infection for the general public, the lack of risk for consumption of well-processed food, the absence of cases of human infection via wild birds, and the impacts of the virus in terms of direct mortality of wild bird populations. He emphasized the lack of information on the behavior of the virus, likelihood of transmission and exact nature of migratory routes. He reported on the work undertaken by the Scientific Task Force on Avian Influenza under the leadership of CMS, and recommended further integration of approaches with the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization.

Taej Mundkur, Wetlands International South Asia, gave on overview of the 2005 outbreak of bird flu in wild bird populations in Asia. Noting the limited capacity to study and monitor birds in the region, he reported that information on the sources of outbreaks were, in some cases, unknown or inconclusive. He highlighted that since the outbreak, reporting of wild bird deaths has enhanced, and called attention to other causes of the outbreak, such as shipping of poultry, trade of birds and bird products, merit release and cockfighting.

Max Finlayson presented on multi-disciplinary modeling and risk analysis for waterbird populations and disease vectors, highlighting the need for: developing alternate scenarios, integrating data and expert knowledge, being creative in the use of science and telling "clear stories" to policymakers.

Anja Globig, Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut, Germany, reported on investigations on avian influenza epidemiology in wild birds in Germany, highlighting that several data remain unknown, such as the virus incubation period, period of virus shedding, and the distribution of virus infection among geographical areas and species.

Kai Wollscheid, International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation, discussed the role of hunters and hunting in the management of diseases spread by migratory wildlife, and underscored the need to ensure that regulations are based on knowledge, if data are not available, and to avoid hasty decisions driven by media.

Bert Lenten, Executive Secretary of the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA), emphasized the lack of information on the real threats of avian influenza, particularly in Africa. He underscored the role of AEWA and CMS in: disseminating balanced information on avian influenza; raising awareness that migratory birds are not only vectors, but also victims of the disease; and voicing the needs of Africa, particularly within the European Union. He pointed to relevant AEWA future activities, including developing surveillance plans, improving risk assessment, and urging hunting communities to contribute to monitoring wild birds.

Dieudonné Ankara, CMS Scientific Counselor, reported on the epidemic of ebola in Africa, recalling that animal-man transmissions occurred among hunters, protected areas personnel and health officers. He shared his experience in response measures, highlighting the continued need for resources in relation to other animal diseases transmittable to man.

Related Links

Convention on Migratory Species
CMS COP-8 web site
COP-8 Meeting Documents
Convention on Biological Diversity
Ramsar Convention on Wetlands
IUCN - The World Conservation Union
WWF International
CMS Press Release on Avian Influenza
Wetlands International - Avian Flu
Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society
International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation

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Linkages Biodiversity and Wildlife Issues page
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ENB Coverage of CMS COP-6
ENB Coverage of the CBD Working Group on Protected Areas
ENB Coverage of CITES COP-13