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New recommendations for migratory species affected by climate change

News Item 2024

The findings of a major report on climate change and migratory species are being presented today to stakeholders at the latest conference for the UN Convention on Migratory Species (CMS).

Climate change and migratory species: a review of impacts, conservation actions, indicators and ecosystem services, which was published December 2023, found that a changing climate is having adverse effects on many migratory species and their ability to provide ecosystem services.

The report brings together recent scientific evidence on the impacts of climate change on migratory species and their habitats, conservation interventions to support migratory species in the face of climate change, and ways in which migratory species can facilitate adaptation and mitigation to climate change. The report was commissioned by Defra through JNCC as a significant contribution to the work of the CMS, and prepared by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO).

The report calls for urgent action to help vulnerable migratory species adapt to a changing climate. The authors, including experts from JNCC, are using the findings of the report to update the actions the Parties to the Convention should be taking to help migratory species adapt to a changing climate and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

The CMS is the global platform for the conservation of migratory animals throughout their habitats. Migratory species can often travel thousands of miles, across multiple borders and so conservation measures need to be a collaborative effort to consider all the pressures they face on their migratory route. This multilateral treaty brings together the different States these animals pass through, and provides a way for coordinated conservation action.

The Conference of the Parties (COP) is the principal decision-making body of the Convention, where governments, scientists and stakeholders meet every three years to set the priorities for the following triennium. It also uses these conferences to consider reports and any amendments to which species have special consideration under CMS.

The recommendations from the report are being presented at the latest COP, currently underway in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. These include updating the Resolution document of the CMS on climate change and migratory species, which includes new guidance on how to deal with species’ historical range and changes in range that may occur as a result of climate change.

The report also highlights the many benefits migratory species provide, such as pollination, seed dispersal and pest control. Importantly, it also outlines how migratory species help to mitigate the impacts of climate change and increase climate change resilience. For example, Sand Tiger Sharks maintain tropic webs that protect seagrass beds important for carbon sequestration, whales store vast amounts of carbon in their bodies, and antelopes can reduce the risk of wildfires through their grazing patterns. The conservation of migratory species and their habitats is therefore an important part of the solution to both the biodiversity and climate change crises.

A series of new conservation actions aimed at helping migratory species adapt to the impacts of climate change are also being proposed. These include, but are not limited to, urging parties to identify and prioritize areas currently experiencing rapid climate impacts that are important to migratory species, ensuring those areas are large enough, effectively managed, and there is connectivity between those areas to help species move and colonise new areas through natural range shifts in response to climate change.

These recommendations are aimed at a wide range of the Convention’s stakeholders – from Parties to the Scientific Council, Secretariat, and the CoP-Appointed Councillor for Climate Change – and will help prioritise work for the next three years.

To find out more, read the full findings of the report.

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