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International Legal Implications of Climate Change for Migratory Bird Protection in the Uk

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International Legal Implications of Climate Change for Migratory Bird Protection in the UK

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Climate Change for Migratory Bird in U.K

Climate change has caused a decline in the number of several species of birds migrating to the UK in winter, according to a report by the Royal Society for the protection of Birds. But the overall number of water birds spending the winter in the UK in the last three decades has doubled, The State of the UK's Birds 2006 report says.

Climate change is reducing the numbers of some species of birds migrating to the UK. The RSPB says there has been a decline in populations of the Greenland white-fronted goose, European white-fronted goose, shelduck, mallard, pochard, ringed plover, dunlin and turnstone. Some birds, which are normally attracted to spend the winter in Britain and Ireland because of the relatively mild climate, are no longer forced to fly as far as the UK to find suitable conditions.

Dr Mark Avery, the RSPB's conservation director, said: "The UK has had both the perfect climate and perfect habitats for these birds, but the evidence is growing that climate change impacts are starting to bite." Sea level rise and warmer winters are reducing their numbers, undermining our importance for birds. Conservationists say the UK receives more than five million ducks, geese, swans and wading birds, from northern Europe, Greenland, Siberia and Arctic Canada, every winter. These birds are attracted to spend the winter in Britain and Ireland because of the relatively mild climate and ice-free conditions.

Biologists believe that climate change is affecting living things worldwide, and the latest evidence suggests that warmer winters may mean fewer migratory birds. New research shows that as winter temperatures have risen in central Europe, the number of migratory birds has dropped. Ultimately, this may also decrease the number of migratory bird species there.

Ultimately, warmer winters will probably also decrease the number of long-distance migratory bird species in Central Europe, say the researchers. In addition, the birds' migratory behavior will probably evolve. The migratory behavior of bird populations can change in only a few generations, and several populations of wrens, skylarks and other short-distance migrants have stopped migrating in the last 20 years.

The Status and Legislative Protection of Migratory Birds in Europe

1. Current conservation provision for raptors in Europe derives from two international treaties both entering into force in 1979. The main provisions of the EC Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds (79/409/EEC) relevant to the conservation of European raptors are outlined. These relate to habitat protection, general species protection, sale of live and dead birds, and means of derogating from some obligations. Within the European Union, the Directive implements the ornithological aspects of the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (the Berne Convention), developed by the Council of Europe (CoE). This Convention applies widely to CoE signatories. The habitat conservation provisions of the EEC Directive on the conservation of Habitats and Species will also have general benefits for birds of prey.

2. Issues currently affecting the conservation status of European birds of prey indicates that, despite a sound legislation basis for their protection, many indeed most -- remain adversely affected through interactions with man. Of the 29 most vulnerable European diurnal raptor species, 27 are adversely affected by changes, losses or fragmentation of their habitats. Major issues include the intensification of agricultural habitats, as well as the abandonment of traditional pastoral agriculture. Persecution (shooting, trapping, direct and indirect poisoning, nest destruction) affects most diurnal raptor species, with egg-robbing, disturbance at nest sites, and illegal hunting on migratory routes being significant adverse factors for many species. Contamination with pesticide residues is a significant issue for at least 13 species. The theft of eggs and young for falconry purposes is a major conservation problem for the larger falcons. The high mortality rate following collision with pylons and power lines and/or electrocution is a significant factor for nearly a third of species, especially in Eastern Europe.

3. Despite high levels of legal protection across most of Europe, there remain major challenges in practice to ensure the implementation and enforcement of conservation legislation, so as to reverse the currently un-favorable conservation status and trends of many species.

UK-wide protection for all birds of prey (except sparrow hawk, which was given protection by Statutory Order in 1963 following its widespread decline because of the effects of organochlorine pesticides) occurred only following the 1954 Protection of Birds Act. This Act also established the principle of special penalties for the killing of rarer species.

In 1979, both the Berne Convention and the Birds Directive came into force. As noted above, these established a variety of legal principles regarding the protection of threatened birds, including requirements for site conservation and the regulation of taking and killing.

To bring UK domestic legislation into line with these obligations, in 1981 the Wildlife and Countryside Act was passed (for Great Britain), and in 1985 the equivalent provisions came into force in Northern Ireland through the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order.

There has been a recent review of the UK network of SPAs (Stroud et al., 2001). The review has derived targeted suites of SPAs and migratory bird in the UK for which site-based conservation measures are appropriate.

In the UK, as probably in other European countries, the fulfillment of international obligations in domestic law can be through a range of different pieces of pre existing legislation. It is relatively rare that international legislation is sufficiently novel to warrant comprehensive primary legislation to enact its provisions domestically -- although this can sometimes occur.

International Legal Implications

The U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 initially protected birds migrating between this country and Canada. The law was later amended to include treaties between the United States and the nations of Mexico, Japan and Russia. Federal migratory

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