Our Objectives

Covering all major flyways and incorporating representatives of several different scientific specialisations, it is our aim to encompass the changing world with a system of continuous critical observations on the demography, body condition, health status and relevant genetic variability in sixteen (or more) distinct populations of long-distance migrant shorebirds.

This program intends to combine and coordinate the efforts of a worldwide consortium of well-established shorebird scientists that over the past decade have demonstrated productive collaborations at many different levels.

Flock of Bar-tailed Godwits

Bar-tailed Godwits on the wing. Image: © 2006 Nevil Lazarus.

Using the Global Flyway Network, established in association with BirdLife Netherlands and BirdLife International, as an umbrella, we propose the amalgamation of a series of existing demographic research initiatives into a truly worldwide observatory of the changing fates of the world’s shorebird populations and the habitats upon which they depend for their existence.

The objectives of the Global Flyway Network are to make important contributions of three different kinds:

  1. To provide an instantaneous sentinel service for the global conservation community: an early warning system of flyway populations under threat, the early identification of populations in decline and in need of recovery action, as well as monitoring the fates of populations known to be in dire straits.
  2. To help generate the stories that need to be told to fuel the imagination and the good will of people that can make a difference to the fate of the habitats and populations under threat.
  3. To further the science, including the understanding of the historical background and the current demographic processes and ecological, genetic and immunological constraints that determine whether populations flourish or flounder. The ongoing demographic work will represent cases of integrated monitoring (Reneerkens et al. 2005) for each of the proposed study populations.

We believe that we can make exceptional contributions with respect to all three objectives. Never before has a sentinel system for population change been considered on this worldwide scale, especially one that has already been shown to work in individual flyways.

The worldwide scope, comparative approach between different populations or subspecies within species – and between different species – and the increasing ability to follow marked individuals around the globe will enable us to tell the stories of migrant birds and the importance of their habitats in new and surprising ways. This will ensure high impact publicity.

With regard to the science, this program is believed to be unrivalled with respect to the geographic scale and the coordinated approach. We aim to provide a tight integration of the ecological basis of demographic variation within and among populations, and with fitness of individuals with respect to genotype (regions of the genome associated with survival of individuals can now be screened), phenotype (body size, condition, moult, plumage, immunity, etc.) and health status (using the latest generation of field-based assays for a variety of pathogens and parasites). In fact, we want our science to be uncompromised, of the highest international standards.