Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 26, Issue 10, pp 2347–2360 | Cite as

Ready for climate change? Geographic trends in the protection status of critical sites for Western Palearctic ducks

  • Matthieu GuillemainEmail author
  • Richard Hearn
Original Paper


The geographic range of many migratory bird populations is shifting in response to climate change. Protected areas play a major role in the conservation of many such species, yet these reserves are static so a geographic mismatch between the habitat needs of the birds and the network of protected areas may gradually appear. Ducks in the Western Palearctic are most likely to shift their distribution northwards and eastwards in response to climate change, so we evaluated whether the mean protection level of the most critical sites for ducks shows any latitudinal or longitudinal trend. From the description of site protection level in the Critical Site Network database (little/none to full protection) a site protection score was computed, ranging from 0 (little/none) to 3 (full protection). More northern sites had greater mean protection scores. Conversely, a negative longitudinal gradient was identified, with much poorer protection of critical duck sites in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia. This is where duck populations are currently the largest, and among the areas where duck populations are expected to increase in the future following climate change, although currently a relatively high proportion also show decreasing population trends. The site protection score was also greatest, on average, in member states of the European Union rather than in other European countries, suggesting EU directives have been successful at improving the level of protection of the most important wetlands for ducks. Although ducks could benefit from further conservation of the sites they use anywhere within their geographic range, and there is room for improvement of protection score in all areas, this study suggests that future site protection efforts should be internationally coordinated, and first targeted at sites east of the Mediterranean shore.


Annual range shift Geographic mismatch Protected areas Waterbirds Ducks 



We thank Szabolcs Nagy and the Critical Sites Network Tool online portal, developed jointly by Wetlands International, BirdLife International and the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre under the Wings over Wetlands: the UNEP-GEF African-Eurasian Flyway Project. Site coordinates and areas were collected from the relevant Important Bird & Biodiversity Area (IBA) factsheets, downloaded from the BirdLife Data Zone (on 1st December 2015). Clémence Deschamps and Marie Suet are thanked for GIS advice, and Elie Gaget for his very constructive and thought-provoking comments on an earlier version of the manuscript; comments from the Associate Editor and two anonymous referees were also very helpful. This project was funded by ONCFS.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune SauvageUnité Avifaune Migratrice, La Tour du ValatArlesFrance
  2. 2.Wildfowl & Wetlands TrustGlosUK

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