Shorebird Conservation Programme

Rocha Lagoon Project

Project: Shorebird Conservation and Habitat Management on Private Ranch Lands in Rocha Lagoon Protected Area, Uruguay, in the Atlantic Flyway
Duration: 1 year
Funding: Manomet
Coordinator: Joaquín Aldabe
Status: ongoing
Project summary: Rocha Lagoon is located in the state of Rocha, on the east coast of Uruguay, about 200 km from Montevideo. The site is a Protected Area under the category of “Protected Landscape” (SNAP), Ramsar site, IBA (BirdLife International) and is part of the Biosphere Reserve “Bañados del Este y Franja costera” (UNESCO). It is a coastal lagoon located in the pampas ecoregion that is part of the Atlantic flyway and mid-continent flyway. It has an extension of 20,000 ha. During 2010, it was declared a WHSRN “site of regional importance” for hosting 6% of the global population of the Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Calidris subruficollis). In addition, there are significant densities of American-golden Plover (Pluvialis dominica) at the site among other shorebird species.
It is necessary to carry out various actions for the conservation of shorebirds in Rocha Lagoon, and to improve their habitat conditions. In this project, all activities will be articulated with ranchers and local community.
Work with ranchers aims to develop management practices aligned with shorebird conservation, especially to increase the extent and quality of available habitat. With local community, training activities will be carried out to develop a monitoring network. Also, by building ecotourism trails in private fields, controlled public access to the areas commonly used by plovers will be facilitated. Through these activities, visitors will be informed and made aware of the importance of this area for birds and their migratory routes.

Merín Lagoon Project

Title: Shorebird Conservation and Habitat Management on Private Ranch Lands in Merín Lagoon, Uruguay, in the Atlantic Flyway
Duration: 1 year
Coordinator: Joaquín Aldabe
Status: ongoing
Project Summary
Laguna Merín is a large lagoon located close to the Atlantic Ocean along the border of Uruguay and Brazil. The lagoon and associated wetlands are part of the UNESCO Bañados del Este Biosphere Reserve and is a recognized Ramsar site of international importance (Bañados del Este y Franja Costera). However, little is known on this lagoon as habitat for wildlife, including migratory shorebirds. Recently, through a project funded by the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act, several ranches near the lagoon were found to support large numbers of Buff-breasted Sandpipers and American Golden-Plovers; other shorebirds, such as Red Knot, have also been recorded there.
This lagoon has been under-surveyed, and it is highly probable that it is a key site for large populations of BBSA and AMGP and other Nearctic-migrant shorebirds such as Red Knot, Hudsonian Godwit, White-rumped Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, and Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs. The site may be used for wintering as well as stopover in the Atlantic Flyway (Aldabe et al. 2015). We need urgent efforts to confirm, characterize and promote awareness among landowners and other stakeholders about the site as important for shorebirds, because conventional agriculture is the predominant activity, and production and conservation of grassland and wetland habitats may be complementary.
The specific goal of the project is to collaborate with private landowners to propose the area as a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN) site by: 1) working with landowners to include their lands in the WHSRN nomination, 2) managing habitat to conserve ranch lands and wetlands, 3) estimating population sizes of Buff-breasted Sandpipers and American Golden-Plovers on their ranches, and 4) documenting other migrant shorebirds using ranch lands in the lagoon area.
The project will improve the conservation status of several migrant shorebirds, including the following Atlantic Flyway Shorebird Initiative (AFSI) focal species: American Golden-Plover, Red Knot, Lesser Yellowlegs and Greater Yellowlegs.

Integrated coastal lagoon management project

Project: Integrative management of coastal lagoons in Uruguay for migrant shorebird conservation
Duration: 2 years
Donor: Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act (NMBCA)
Coordinator: Joaquin Aldabe
Status: approved
Participating institutions:
Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences – Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN);
Centro Universitario Regional del Este (CURE) – University of the Republic; Grasslands Alliance – BirdLife International; National Protected Area System (Sistema Nacional de Áreas Protegidas -SNAP)- National Bureau for the Environment.
The eastern seaboard of Uruguay exhibits a chain of 5 coastal lagoons with very similar ecosystems, supporting globally important populations of migratory shorebirds that use the surrounding grasslands, wetlands and sandy areas, as well as the lagoon shores, as wintering areas. Relevant populations of Buff-breasted Sandpiper, American Golden Plover, Red Knot rufa population, White Rumped Sandpiper and Pectoral Sandpiper are regularly present in the Uruguayan eastern lagoons. These birds make long-distance migrations between the north of Alaska and Canada, where they rear their chicks, and the south of South America.
This region, covering almost 1,000,000 hectares, is under pressure by several factors: conventional agriculture, intensive livestock ranching, urbanization and recreational activities such as uncontrolled tourism. Our goal is to secure shorebird conservation in the long term by developing and empowering an integrative collaborative local conservation network with cattle ranchers and other key stakeholders taking direct action on habitat conservation and restoration.
Acting jointly with key stakeholders of the region, the management of the 5 lagoons will be integrated by creating local and regional working groups to reach local and cross-site management and conservation agreements. Primary actions will be conducted during a two-year project and will consist in the application of Best Management Practices in 40.000 hectares and habitat restoration in 200 hectares. The project includes WHSRN sites designations, shorebird population estimates and building of high resolution distribution maps, as well as the development of a citizen scientist group that safeguards habitat integrity for neotropical migrant shorebirds. Additional threat assessment will be performed to define the more urgent areas of conservation action for the longer term.
Finally, we will put together all the experience, contacts, and information to develop a regional plan for shorebird conservation for the lagoon belt upon project completion, to be published and delivered to the authorities and landowners as a roadmap for continuing conservation actions.
This project will be a significant contribution to the implementation of the Atlantic Flyway and the incipient Mid-Continental Flyaway, as well as other outstanding international, regional and national ongoing initiatives such as the Ramsar Convention, IBA Program, the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Grasslands Alliance and the management plans of the National Protected Areas System (SNAP).

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