From Wildlife Extra:
Rare duck thrives in EU protected areas
The Smew, a duck that is a rare visitor to the UK in winter, is doing twice as well as two decades ago within areas protected by EU wildlife laws, reports the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust (WWT) and British Trust for Ornithology (BTO).
Scientists studied data from wetlands throughout Europe and found that as a result of climate change nearly a third of these ducks now spend winter in north-eastern Europe, compared to just 6 per cent 20 years ago.
WWT’s Head of Species Monitoring, Richard Hearn, says: “The EU’s network of protected areas is obviously helping Smew adapt to climate change.
“Most Special Protection Areas were designated around 20 years ago using the data that we had then. Things have changed dramatically in the natural world since then and we need to respond to help ensure that Smew and other waterbirds remain well protected.”
The National Organiser of the BTO’s Wetland Bird Survey, Chas Holt says: “The UK data that contributed to this study were collected by the dedicated volunteers of the UK’s Wetland Bird Survey.
“The published results are an excellent example of how collaboration across a species’ range can generate outputs that are of direct relevance to conservation.”
In Latvia and Sweden, however, the protected area network supports fewer than one in five Smew and in Finland that proportion drops to just one in 50.
Hearn says: “In this newly occupied region there aren’t enough protected areas and that could constrict the population as they spread north.”
The authors emphasise that protected areas also need to be maintained at the southern end of the birds’ range, in western Europe, so that they have somewhere to retreat during particularly harsh winters, such as during December 2010.
In the UK, a small population typically of fewer than 200 Smew can be found in winter at favoured gravel pits and reservoirs in lowland England. This UK population has approximately halved since the late 1990s.
These results are based on data from the International Waterbird Census, coordinated by Wetlands International, from 16 countries since 1990 and the findings were published in the scientific journal Diversity and Distributions.