DRAFT INTERNATIONAL SINGLE SPECIES ACTION PLAN FOR THE
CONSERVATION OF THE EURASIAN CURLEW
Introduction This draft International Single Species Action Plan (ISSAP) for the Conservation of the Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata arquata, N. a. orientalis and N. a. suschkini) was commissioned to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), United Kingdom.
Drafts of the plan went through rigorous consultations with experts and the resulting draft was provided to the Technical Committee via its Workspace and to government officials at the Range States of the species for final consultations.
It was presented to the Technical Committee at its 12th Meeting in March 2015, and to the AEWA Standing Committee at its 10th Meeting in July 2015, where it was approved for submission to MOP6 for adoption.
Action Requested from the Meeting of the Parties The Meeting of the Parties is requested to review and adopt this draft ISSAP.
Agreement on the Conservation of
African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA)
DRAFT INTERNATIONAL SINGLE SPECIES ACTION PLAN FOR THE CONSERVATION
OF THE EURASIAN CURLEW
Numenius arquata arquata, N. a. orientalis and N. a. suschkini
Compiled by: Daniel Brown1
1 RSPB Scotland Headquarters, 2 Lochside View, Edinburgh Park, Edinburgh, EH12 9DH, UK
First draft: December 2013, presented to N. a.arquata experts (June – August 2014)
Email consultation with subspecies N. a.orientalis and N. a. suschkini experts
Second draft: January 2015, presented to the Range States and the AEWA Technical Committee
Third draft: June 2015, submitted to the AEWA Standing Committee
[Final draft: ****, submitted to the 6th Meeting of the AEWA Parties for adoption]
This International Single Species Action Plan should be reviewed and updated every 10 years. The first revision should be in 2025. An emergency review will be undertaken if there is a significant change to the species’ status before the next scheduled review.
The Eurasian Curlew has a large global range and as such this International Single Species Action Plan shall be implemented in the following Range States:
Twenty Principle Range States: Range States that regularly support globally-important (i.e. >1% of the biogeographic population) breeding and/or non-breeding numbers of either of the three subspecies. This includes: Belgium; Denmark; Estonia; Finland; France; Germany; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Iraq; Ireland, Republic of; Kazakhstan; Netherlands; Norway; Oman; Russian Federation; Saudi Arabia; Sweden; Turkey; United Kingdom; United Arab Emirates; and Uzbekistan.
Nine Survey Range States: Range States for which there is currently insufficient data available to assess their significance for the species. This includes: Belarus; Greece; Guinea-Bissau; Hungary; Kuwait; Mauritania; Romania; Tunisia; and Ukraine.
Several Range States host breeding and/or non-breeding numbers below the 1% of the biogeographic population threshold, with some of them approaching it close and (others) undertaking species-specific and/or wider conservation measures intended to benefit Eurasian Curlew and their associated habitats. The involvement of these Range States in the implementation of the ISSAP is currently being consulted. This includes Austria; Bulgaria; Guinea; Italy; Latvia; Lithuania; Morocco; Poland; Portugal; Senegal; Slovenia; and Yemen.
We would like to thank the following people for providing data, support and assistance to the preparation of this action plan: Jo Anders Auran, Åke Berg, Aida Al Jabri, Yahya Al-Shehabi, Willem Van den Bossche, Natalie Busch, Nicola Crockford, Sergey Dereliev, Anita Donaghy, David Douglas, Kiraz Erciyas-Yavuz, Jens Eriksen, Jaanus Elts, Claudia Feltrup-Azafazaf, Jim de Fouw, Gerrit Gerritsen, Tómas Grétar Gunnarsson, Ohad Hatzofe, Herman Hötker, Kate Jennings, Adriaan de Jong, Borgný Katrínardóttir, Erling Krabbe, Elena Kreuzberg, Dominik Krupiński, Dorota Łukasik, Ingar Jostein Øien, Szabolcs Nagy, Simon Nemtzov, Nina Mikander, Vladimir Morozov, Anja Pel-Roest, Richard Porter, Frédéric Robin, Üllar Rammul, Marc van Roomen, Mathieu Sarasa, David Schönberg Alm, Robert Sheldon, Kjetil Solbakken, David Stanton, Joseph van der Stegen, Mudhafar A. Salim, David Stroud, Bertrand Trolliet, Hans Uhl, Jari Valkama, Johan Wallander.
Recommended citation: Brown, D.J. in prep. International Single Species Action Plan for the Conservation of the Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata arquata, N. a. orientalis and N. a. suschkini. AEWA Technical Series No. XX. Bonn, Germany.
The Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata is a highly migratory species in need of coordinated conservation action and research. Population and range decline has been reported across much of its breeding range. As a result, in 2007 the species was uplisted to the globally Near Threatened (NT) category of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. This International Single Species Action Plan (ISSAP) sets a course of action to restore the Eurasian Curlew to a favourable conservation status.
The long-term goal of this plan is to restore the favourable conservation status of the Eurasian Curlew throughout its international range, as demonstrated by its assessment as Least Concern (LC) against IUCN Red List criteria by 2026. The short-term aims are to stabilise breeding population declines of N. a. arquata; to improve knowledge relating to the population and conservation status of N. a. orientalis and N. a. suschkini; and for any hunting activity to be undertaken within the context of an adaptive harvest management process.
The Eurasian Curlew is listed in Appendix II of the Bonn Convention and Appendix III of the Bern Convention. Three subspecies are recognised: N. a. arquata, N. a. orientalis and N. a. suschkini. N. a. arquata is listed on Table 1 in Column A, Category 4 of the Action Plan of the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA). N. a. orientalis is listed on Table 1 in Column A, Category 3c. Lastly, N. a. suschkini is listed on Table 1 in Column A, Category 1c. This ISSAP is a composite plan that seeks to improve the conservation status of all three subspecies within the AEWA range.
The Eurasian Curlew is classified as Vulnerable on the European Red List of Birds (BirdLife International 2015). Europe probably hosts more than 75% of the global breeding population (BirdLife International 2004). It is listed on Annex II Part B of ‘the Birds Directive’ (the European Council Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds 79/409/EEC, 2 April 1979), indicating it can be hunted in listed Member States which have a defined hunting season for the species. It is currently a quarry species only in parts of France. The EU Management Plan for Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata) 2007-2009 set out a conservation plan for the species within the geographic area of the European Union, recognising that the 25 EU Member States of the time supported a significant proportion of the European population, and that declines were evident in many of these Member States. This ISSAP builds upon several of the actions identified in the EU Management Plan.
The Eurasian Curlew breeds mostly in the boreal, temperate and steppe regions of Europe and Asia; from Fennoscandia in the north to central Europe in the south, and from Ireland in the west to Transbaikalia, Russia in the east. Most populations are highly migratory and the species has a large wintering range that includes much of the coastlines of Northwest Europe, the Mediterranean Basin, Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, the Indian sub-continent and South East Asia and East Asia. On its breeding grounds the Eurasian Curlew is strongly associated with a range of wetland and agricultural habitats in ‘open’ landscapes. Coastal habitats and arable crops are also used for breeding. During the winter months, the Eurasian Curlew is found in large flocks at intertidal mudflats, coastal grasslands, farmland, and to a lesser extent, inland wetlands.
The Eurasian Curlew occurs regularly in 42 AEWA Range States. Population declines are being driven primarily by low reproductive success. The factors responsible for this low breeding success include:
the loss, degradation and fragmentation of breeding habitats;
high levels of nest and chick predation;
nest destruction due to agricultural activities;
human disturbance on breeding grounds;
Conservation of all the three subspecies will be dependant upon reversing population declines. This can only be achieved by increasing adult survival (i.e. reducing adult mortality rate) and/or by increasing productivity (i.e. breeding success). This ISSAP sets a framework for action to achieve this; an International Working Group will coordinate implementation.
4. FRAMEWORK FOR ACTION .................................................................................................
5. IMPLEMENTATION.................................................................................................................. 6. References ...........................................................................................................................
1. BIOLOGICAL ASSESSMENT 1.1. Taxonomy and biogeographic populations
Numenius arquata (Linnaeus 1758)
Numenius arquata arquata (Linnaeus 1758)
Numenius arquata orientalis (Brehm 1831)
Numenius arquata suschkini (Neumann 1929)
Scolopax arquata (Linnaeus 1758)
Non-English common names: Storspove (Danish) Wulp (Dutch) Isokuovi (Finnish) Courlis cendré (French) Suurkoovitaja (Estonia) Guilbneach (Gaelic) Großer Brachvogel (German) Nagy poling (Hungarian) Fjöruspói (Icelandic) Crotach (Irish) Chiurlo (Italian) Storspove (Norwegian) Kulik wielki (Polish) Maçarico-real (Portugese) Большой кроншнеп (Russian) Zarapito real (Spanish) Storspov (Swedish) and Gylfinir (Welsh).
Polytypic species. No studies have been conducted on the level of genetic variation across the range. However, three subspecies are recognised. The nominate N. a.arquata has acore breeding range which includes the British Isles, Fennoscandia, northern continental Europe and European Russia. It winters mostly in coastal regions of Northwest Europe and West Africa. The Ural Mountains mark the dividing line between the breeding range of N. a. arquata and one of two eastern subspecies; N. a.orientalis. All birds breeding to the west of the Urals are considered to be N. a. arquata (Thorup 2006) whilst those from the Urals eastwards are thought to be N. a.orientalis. The exact dividing line between the two subspecies is not clear, and there is probably a broad zone of inter-gradation (a ‘hybrid zone’) stretching from Ukraine through southern European Russia and into Kazakhstan (Delany et al. 2009). The N. a.orientalis breeding range stretches from the Urals, across temperate latitudes of Siberia, extending just to the west of Lake Baikal. There appear to be three distinct migration routes amongst N. a.orientalis birds (see Section 1.3 Migration Routes for full details). N. a. suschkini breeds on steppes to the south of the Urals in Russia and Kazakhstan and is thought to winter mainly in Africa. Historically, there has been uncertainty surrounding the validity of N. a. suschkini as a distinct subspecies. However, in recent years its subspecies status has been recognised by most leading authorities (e.g. Van Gils & Wiersma 1996, Gill & Donsker 2015).
1.2. Population size and trend 1.2.1. Global population The recent global population was estimated at 700,000-1,065,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2006). However, combining the population estimates for the five populations listed in Waterbird Population Estimates 5 (2012) gives a slightly higher population estimate of 835,000-1,310,000. Part of the reason for this increase is due to an increase in the estimate of an N. a. orientalis population that uses the East Asian-Australasian Flyway(see below).
1.2.2. N. a.arquata population size N. a.arquata is the most numerous of the three subspecies with an estimated population of 700,000-1,000,000 individuals (Thorup 2006, BirdLife International 2004b). The first estimate of 348,000 by Smit & Piersma (1989) was based on midwinter counts at coastal wetlands along the East Atlantic Flyway. It was acknowledged to be an underestimate due to the large number of inland wintering birds that the counts did not include. An updated estimate of 420,000 (Stroud et al. 2004) was based on midwinter counts and estimates at coastal sites during the 1990s and included populations wintering inland. Estimates derived from breeding populations have produced higher population estimates. Thorup (2006) produced an estimate of 240,000-347,000 breeding pairs for all birds breeding west of the Urals, equating to 720,000-1,040,000 individuals (Delany et al. 2009). A similar estimate of 660,000-1,080,000 individuals was produced by BirdLife International (2004), calculated from the sum of national breeding estimates which equated to 220,000-360,000 pairs.
Declines in breeding populations of N. a. arquata have been recorded or are suspected to be occurring across much of the breeding range. Over 99% of the breeding population is estimated to occur within ten Range States (Figure 1), and short-term and/or long-term declines (Table 3) have been recorded in eight; the exceptions being France (Fouquet 2013) and Belarus (BirdLife International 2004a). Population and range decline have been particularly pronounced in some Range States, for example the UK, where the population has declined by 43% between 1995 and 2012 (Harris et al. 2013) and the whole of Ireland (i.e. Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland), where the breeding range has contracted by 78% in the past four decades (Balmer et al. 2013).
Figure 1: Approximate proportion of N. a. arquata breeding population per Range State. Figures displayed in brackets represents the population estimate in breeding pairs. Population estimates are taken from Table 2. National information on breeding populations and trends. In instances where the population estimate is a range, the number displayed is the mean e.g. for Russia, the population estimate is 48,000-120,000, so mean=84,000. Over 99% of the total N. a. arquata population is within the ten Range States displayed. All Range States with population estimates of less than 1000 breeding pairs were placed together under the ‘Remainder’ category. Many of these countries still have important populations from both a national and a range maintenance perspective.
Declines of a similar magnitude are not apparent from wintering population data. Indeed, analysis of International Waterbird Census (IWC) data actually reports a long-term increase in the wintering population from 1979-2012, with an apparent stabilisation in recent years (2003-2012). One possible explanation, or contributing factor, for this discrepancy between wintering and breeding trends is that the wintering distribution is shifting in response to changing climatic conditions. This phenomenon has been described for several species of shorebird in Western Europe, and such shifts could obscure or confound breeding population declines (Taylor & Dodd 2013, Rehfisch et al. 2004, Maclean et al. 2008). A climate-driven shift in wintering distribution of N. a. arquata may well have occurred between West Africa and Northwest Europe in recent decades. However, it alone cannot account for the large increase in Northwest Europe, as the magnitude of decline in West Africa is considerably less than the increase in Northwest Europe (see Figure 2).
Figure 2: N. a. arquata population trends from 1979-2012 for wintering populations in Northwest Europe and West Africa, based on IWC data. The number of N. a. arquata birds substantially increased between 1979-2012 in Western Europe. Over the same period there has been a decline in the number of birds wintering in West Africa; but not enough to explain the increases in Western Europe (Nagy et al. 2014, van Roomen et al. 2014).
An alternative explanation is that the breeding population in Russia is actually increasing, although it is thought to be declining (Vladimir Morozov, pers. comm.), but this assertion is not based on quantitative data. Another explanation is that strict restrictions on hunting are in place in the Netherlands and Denmark, and there is evidence to suggest that some species of wader and waterfowl do not migrate further south if they find suitable habitats closer to their breeding areas. One objective of this ISSAP is to address this discrepancy through a programme of research actions. Irrespective of the factors responsible, the varying population trends across different parts of the wintering range mean that approximately 95% of thepopulation now occurs in Northwest Europe (Figure 4).
Whilst discrepancies exist between the breeding and wintering population trend data, it is important to note that both are subject to limitations due to gaps in temporal and spatial coverage, as well significant variation in the quality of national or regional datasets upon which they are based.
Figure 3: Approximate proportion of N. a. arquata wintering population in different regions, showing the vast majority of birds winter in Northwest Europe. In reality the proportion is higher, as birds in the population figures used for N&E Mediterranean and N&W Africa at least partially consist of N. a. orientalis. Data was based on the population data displayed in Table 3.