The workshop this year was attended by 50 researchers, experts, environmentalists and conservationists from Arabian Peninsula countries, and international organisations around the world.
In its continued efforts to inspire, influence and make a difference to the society, Environment and Protected Areas Authority (Epaa) recently concluded its four-day workshop on Monitoring Waterbirds, with a special focus on the Arabian Peninsula. Built on the outcomes of previous workshops, the technical workshop this year was attended by 50 researchers, experts, environmentalists and conservationists from Arabian Peninsula countries, and international organizations around the world.
At the workshop, participants shared their experiences and best practices to monitor waterbirds, which served as a learning curve for several attendees. During the course of four days, participants were introduced to different elements of monitoring including observing the breeding waterbirds, supervising site-conditions, accurately identifying waterbirds, counting and estimating seabirds, overseeing habitat changes, detecting potential threats, as well as developing plans and actions for conserving waterbirds. In addition, several field exercises were organised for participants to have a first-hand approach at identifying, counting and estimating waterbirds.
“Monitoring waterbirds is an important task. As such, the objective of the workshop this year was to train experts in the industry with practical tools that will help them develop national and regional communications strategies for assessing seabirds. The experience gained and skills acquired from this workshop will be used for a variety of avian research and conservation projects in the future,” said Hana Saif Al Suwaidi, Epaa Chairperson.
“Monitoring Waterbirds has been a great initiative to trigger positive impact for the ecosystem. This year, we levelled up the programme, which served as a robust platform to analyse the current and most updated methods to monitor, identify, count and estimate waterbirds,” added Al Suwaidi.
This year, the four-day workshop assessed existing initiatives and outlined strategic monitoring methods to identify gaps, needs and opportunities, as well as discussed and developed plans for the way forward. Furthermore, the workshop also provided participants with knowledge, skills, and tools needed to significantly contribute to understanding waterbirds through direct involvement in international monitoring programs.
On day one, participants prepared standardised national programmes for non-breeding waterbirds, discussed site selection, census timing, as well as published and shared results, for breeding waterfowl and developed schemes to assess seabirds. Day two featured a workshop to train the trainers which focused on developing bird recognition skills, while day three focused on developing counting and estimating skills. The last day of the workshop concluded with a field trip that highlighted training in site monitoring, land use monitoring, the monitoring of habitat changes, and using remote sensing information (based on regional initiatives).
Towards the end of the workshop, participants underscored the importance of developing effective tools for facilitating monitoring of waterbirds. The following next steps were outlined for the coming years –
A national action plan will be developed which will facilitate monitoring of sites for breeding and non-breeding waterbirds. In addition, protocols will be established, and data forms and data flow will be created for identification and counting waterbirds.
In this year, experts will aim to pilot non-breeding counts, survey first set of breeding sites and collect information on threats and conservation actions.
Experts in this year will extend non-breeding counts to all selected monitoring sites and survey the next set of breeding sites.
This is the most crucial year as experts will implement non-breeding counts at monitoring sites, survey the third set of breeding sites, produce regional estimates and feed regional estimates into flyway estimates.
The main objectives of the workshop this year was to monitor and observe waterfowl in the Arabian Peninsula including understanding changes in the numbers of waterfowl at important sites and at national and regional levels, preparing accurate estimates of bird numbers at the national and regional levels, and identifying and monitoring changes in the main sites for migratory waterfowls.