Arctic Migratory Birds Initiative: a global partnership for Arctic-breeding migratory birds

At the most recent Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting (Rovaniemi, 6-7 May 2019), the Ministers of the Arctic States approved the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna’s (CAFF) Arctic Migratory Birds Initiative (AMBI) Work Plan 2019-2023.

This ambitious plan provides the strategic framework and guidance for cooperation to conserve populations of Arctic breeding migratory birds experiencing alarming population decline.

Some species of Arctic-breeding shorebirds have declined anywhere from 50 to 90 per cent in the past 30 to 40 years, largely because of habitat destruction and unsustainable harvest outside the Arctic. AMBI is a project designed to improve the conservation status and secure the long-term sustainability of declining Arctic breeding migratory bird populations. These birds begin their journey in the Arctic before they visit many countries during their annual migration, so to protect them effectively, it is necessary to take joint action along the entire migratory range (or flyway). A failure to protect birds in any one location will to have consequences along the whole flyway.

The origins of AMBI trace back to 2013, when CAFF released the Arctic Biodiversity Assessment (ABA). The ABA was the result of an ambitious pan-Arctic cooperation to critically assess the status, trends, and threats of Arctic ecosystems and biodiversity. It identified that “many Arctic migratory species are threatened by overharvest and habitat alteration outside the Arctic, especially birds along the East Asian flyway” and recommended to “reduce stressors on migratory species range-wide, including habitat degradation and overharvesting on wintering and staging areas along flyways and other migration routes.” AMBI was established as a result, and organizes its activities across four flyways: the Americas Flyway, the African-Eurasian Flyway, the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, and the Circumpolar Flyway. Under the AMBI Work Plan 2019-2023, each flyway has its own set of priority species, conservation issues and objectives and actions.

Due to AMBI’s focus on actions inside and outside the Arctic, Arctic Council Observers play a very important role. Since its inception, AMBI has been actively engaging Observers and many have been actively involved in the development of the AMBI Work Plan 2019-2023 and, importantly, the implementation of objectives and actions. Arctic Council Observer states such as China, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Japan, India, UK, Spain, Germany, France, the Netherlands all sit on flyway coordination committees and advance AMBI work. In the Americas AMBI expands country involvement to include Brazil and Mexico. In addition, AMBI partners with global and regional organizations to advance issues and actions of common concern including the African Eurasian Waterbird Agreement, Convention on Migratory Species, Ramsar, East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership, the Wadden Sea Flyway Initiative, BirdLife, Wetlands International, and Manomet. AMBI aims at bringing value to ongoing conservation programmes and address issues and species underrepresented in the international bird conservation.

During the next four years, AMBI will continue to work with its partners to find effective and innovative solutions to the most pressing conservation issues affecting Arctic breeding migratory birds, and with concerted effort, hope to turn the tide for species in decline.