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Conserving birds and critical habitats in the context of climate change, focus of the new SPEAR project

The SPEAR science team will also study waterbird species that are weakened by human hunting activity and assess the benefits of wetlands. Photo: Morgan Newnham.
The SPEAR science team will also study waterbird species that are weakened by human hunting activity and assess the benefits of wetlands. Photo: Morgan Newnham.

The recent SPEAR (Scenarios for Protecting European Avian Redistributions) research project in which CREAF is involved focuses on understanding changes in the number and distribution of birds in Europe, and on promoting new policy tools to conserve them in the context of climate change. Among the tasks to be undertaken, it is planned to identify the weaknesses of the current terrestrial and marine networks of protected areas dedicated to conserving threatened bird species and critical habitats. The resilience of these areas under future environmental change scenarios will also be assessed. The final purpose is to define best practices for those responsible for managing protected areas, aimed at improving the conservation of birds affected by climate change.

"The sensitivity of birds to environmental changes makes them key indicators of ecosystem health. Their number and presence are some of the main criteria for identifying wetlands of high ecological value" Sara Fraixedas

The scientific team in charge of SPEAR will also study aquatic bird species – in a weak situation in the face of human hunting activity – and will evaluate the benefits of the marshes in terms of biodiversity, including their recreational value. CREAF researchers Lluís Brotons and Sara Fraixedas are involved in the project. “The sensitivity of birds to environmental changes makes them key indicators of ecosystem health. Their number and presence are some of the main criteria for identifying wetlands of high ecological value,” says Fraixedas.

A strong international consortium

The international consortium in charge of this ambitious project is made up of specialists from 8 research centers in Denmark, Spain, Finland, Norway, United Kingdom, Sweden and Switzerland, as well as 6 conservation groups. Also included are the secretariats of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA), both affiliated with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Wetlands International, Stichting BirdLife Europe, the Danish Hunters’ Association and the European Soil Conservation Network (Eurosite).

The SPEAR project involves an international consortium of 8 centers and more than 6 conservation groups aiming at the global biodiversity targets for 2030.
The SPEAR project has the global 2030 biodiversity targets on the horizon. Image: Jan Larsson.

The initiative keeps the global biodiversity targets for 2030 on the horizon: the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030 to protect fauna and flora and the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. SPEAR is part of the European Union’s Biodiversa+ proposal – the environment that supports excellent biodiversity research – and has a working team of 15 European centers, with the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research in the lead.

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