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Climate change resilience of threatened shorebirds in Queensland’s Ramsar Wetlands

Grant awarded to Queensland Wader Study Group by the Queensland Government


Qld Govt Community Sustainability Action Grants (Round4) Threatened Species Recovery and Resilience

Aims: Queensland’s migratory shorebird community is in decline (Clemens et al. 2016), with 7 species listed as nationally threatened under the EPBC Act 1999. Migratory shorebirds are climate sensitive species (Iwamura et al. 2013), and Queensland’s Ramsar wetlands are probably playing an important role in shielding them from the impacts of climate change, coastal development, and a range of other threats. Yet regular surveying and mapping of threatened migratory shorebirds is heavily biased towards the southernmost of the four coastal Ramsar sites. Our project aims are to:

1.              Conduct community-led surveys of threatened migratory shorebirds in Bowling Green Bay. This northernmost Ramsar site supports internationally significant numbers of threatened migratory shorebirds, yet is the poorest surveyed Ramsar wetland in Queensland (Driscoll et al. 2012). Through surveys of populations and mapping of climate sensitive habitats, we will provide critical data needed to fulfill international obligations under the Ramsar Convention and three bilateral migratory species agreements.

2.              Measure and map migratory shorebird habitat use within and among Queensland’s Ramsar sites. We will deploy tracking devices and engraved leg-flags on Endangered Far Eastern curlew and Vulnerable Bar-tailed godwit in the Moreton Bay and Great Sandy Ramsar wetlands. This will build on previous tracking efforts revealing critical roosting and foraging habitat requirements and population connectivity in Moreton Bay, Great Sandy, and along Queensland’s coastline.

3.              Use tracking data to inspire Queensland school communities, students, and the general public through targeted and sustained education and awareness-raising. Previous tracking work has shown the tremendous power of shorebird migration for public education and outreach. For example, a recent Far Eastern curlew tracking story on the QWSG Facebook page had a global reach of >100,000 views and culminated in a feature story on ABC TV news. Grant support will help to entrench these educational and outreach opportunities in curricula.

Benefits: Our activities will benefit threatened migratory shorebirds in two main ways. First, community-led surveys and mapping will fill critical knowledge gaps about the abundance, distribution, and habitat needs of threatened migratory shorebirds in Queensland’s coastal Ramsar wetlands. Without such information, it is impossible to assess climate vulnerability and impacts. Further, tracking data will help to identify important non-breeding and breeding habitats for Endangered Far Eastern curlew within and beyond Queensland (Actions 1.1.1, 1.2.1 in the International single species action plan for the conservation of Far Eastern curlew, East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership). Second, we will develop educational and outreach materials using findings from our tracking activities to enhance public engagement, appreciation, and concern for threatened migratory shorebirds. Developing and sustaining education and awareness programs is considered a key element of minimizing anthropogenic threats to migratory shorebirds in Australia (Action 3a in the Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds, Australian Government).