Waterbirds are one of the key indicators of wetlands health. Wetlands provide feeding, resting, roosting and foraging habitats for these charismatic species. We work with a number of volunteers to assess the status of population of waterbirds over time. The information so generated is used to identify wetlands of high importance for waterbirds, and take conservation measures such as designation as Ramsar Sites, or inclusion as priority wetlands within national programmes.
Every January, thousands of volunteers across Asia and Australasia visit wetlands in their country and count waterbirds. This citizen science programme is the Asian Waterbird Census (AWC). The AWC is an integral part of the global waterbird monitoring programme, the International Waterbird Census (IWC), coordinated by Wetlands International. It runs in parallel with other regional programmes of the International Waterbird Census in Africa, Europe, West Asia, the Neotropics and the Caribbean.
The AWC was initiated in 1987 in the Indian subcontinent and since has grown rapidly to cover major region of Asia, from Afghanistan eastwards to Japan, Southeast Asia and Australasia. The census, thus covers the entire East Asian – Australasian Flyway and a large part of the Central Asian Flyway.
The census has the following objectives:
- to obtain information on an annual basis of waterbird populations at wetlands in the region during the non-breeding period of most species (January), as a basis for evaluation of sites and monitoring of populations
- to monitor on an annual basis the status and condition of wetlands
- to encourage greater interest in waterbirds and wetlands amongst citizens
Till date, more than 6,100 sites of 27 countries have been covered with active participation of thousands of volunteers. The information collected is available to a wide range of government agencies and non-government organizations and contributes to conservation activities from the local to global level, including:
- raising awareness of waterbirds and waterbird conservation issues;
- supporting local conservation activities at wetlands;
- the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, in identifying and monitoring wetlands of international importance;
- the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), by monitoring the status of migratory waterbirds and their habitats;
- the Convention on Biological Diversity‘s (CBD) goal in conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity;
- implementation of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership Initiative (EAAFP) and Central Asian Flyway Action Plan through monitoring important and Flyway Network sites;
- BirdLife International’s Important Bird Area (IBA) Programme;
- IUCN/BirdLife International’s Global Species Programme (Red List);
- Wetlands International’s Waterbird Population Estimates programme.
Summaries of all AWC counts are updated annually on our interactive and publicly accessible International Waterbird Census website. They are accessible as national/regional totals and species totals. All sites covered by AWC participants in the past three decades have been represented as an interactive AWC site network map. Have a look at these know more about waterbird populations and AWC coverage in the region of your interest.
Our publications are available on the Asian Waterbird Census Publications page
See the list of our AWC National/regional coordinators and list of our AWC state coordinators in India. For more information on the AWC, count forms and site forms, please drop a mail to [email protected].