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Prior to the completion workshop SCWP staff gathered in Harbin for the final Steering Committee Meeting to discuss project achievements during the last year and plan for final activities.

SCWP Unites Nations in Conserving Wetlands along Waterbird Flyways

Participants of the UNEP/GEF Siberian Crane Wetland Project (SCWP) gathered in Harbin, China October 14-15, 2009 for the Project Completion Workshop at the Northeast Forestry University. The workshop focused on accomplishments of the six-year program to protect a network of key wetlands along the flyways of the critically endangered Siberian Crane and millions of other waterbirds in Eurasia. The SCWP is the first flyway-level conservation project supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), targeting wetland sites in China, Iran, Kazakhstan and Russia.

Representatives from CMS, UNEP, China State Forestry Administration, UNEP and Harbin Northeast Forestry University presented opening remarks (top) at the SCWP Completion Workshop. Participants from the four SCWP countries, along with representatives of the project sites in China, university students, and local and national media attended the workshop presentations and discussions.

Key project achievements include Kazakhstan’s remarkable success in strengthening their protected area system, including the expansion of Naurzum National Nature Reserve by 103,687 hectares, and designation of all four project sites as Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance; an innovative new protected area system around Kunovat in western Russia, including the creation of a new National Park around the site; annual Crane Celebrations held at 120 sites in nine countries in western Asia; a national environmental education program in Kazakhstan; and community co-management programs targeting local hunters in Iran.

Workshop participants further noted that through the efforts of the SCWP, the flyway-level approach has become a model for future conservation programs focusing on migratory species. Other important discussions focused on achieving long term sustainability of project results – whether through the increased capacity and training of staff, who may continue to work on related activities, or maintaining funding through national programs and local non-governmental organizations. Participants also emphasized that future projects will need to focus on the adaptive management of wetland ecosystems to cope with climate change and often diminishing water resources for both wildlife and human populations - threats that areas such as Northeast China and northern Kazakhstan along the Siberian Crane flyways are now facing.

Field trip participants discuss a map of Zhalong Nature Reserve and water management within the reserve and surrounding area.

Following the day-long summary workshop, a half-day seminar was organized on research and conservation action related to water management at Zhalong National Nature Reserve. The Zhalong Reserve is a staging area for the Siberian Crane in East Asia and has the largest known breeding population of the endangered Red-crowned Crane. Unfortunately the wetlands are threatened by lack of water and fragmentation due to increasing development within and around the reserve. Project researchers presented on project achievements, including development of water management and restoration plans for Zhalong (as a result, water allocations for the reserve have been incorporated into regional water distribution plans). This long-term mechanism to ensure a water supply for Zhalong sets a new precedent for China. While steps already taken at Zhalong are significant, monitoring results indicate that adjustments in the timing, locations and amounts of water releases are needed to be successful in sustaining the wetland, and considerable effort is needed to remove obstacles to water flow within the wetland and to stop new construction (ditches, dikes, roads, etc.).

Field trip participants viewed approximately 2,000 Siberian Cranes and other waterbirds at Momoge National Nature Reserve.

After the seminar participants visited the Zhalong and neighboring Momoge National Nature Reserves to view firsthand the activities implemented under the SCWP. At Momoge, the participants viewed about 2,000 Siberian Cranes, which had stopped in the shallow wetlands within the reserve, along with geese, swans and other waterbirds, to rest during their long migration to southeastern China. The Momoge Reserve had paid for a water release to sustain the wetlands a few months ago, as a step towards implementing the water management plan created through the SCWP for the reserve.

Noritake Ichida, Vice President of Birdlife International (Asia), noted during the workshop’s closing panel discussion that in his opinion compared with six years ago (prior to the SCWP) the Siberian Crane is better protected. However, he also noted that ongoing threats to the species and its flyways, such as development projects and climate change, pose continuing challenges, and as a result we need to continue to work to protect this species. The workshop participants agreed that the SCWP, along with other international conservation agreements focusing on the species, has created a solid foundation for the continuation of these programs into the future.

Max Zieren, UNEP/DGEF Regional Programme Coordinator Asia Pacific, UNEP, Wang Qishan, Professor, Life Science School, Anhui University China, and Noritake Ichida, Vice President, Birdlife International (Asia) participated in the closing panel discussion during the workshop.

For more information on the workshop or to request a digital copy of the final workshop proceedings (available in December 2009), please contact Sara Gavney Moore, SCWP Communications Coordinator, at sgm@savingcranes.org. To learn more about the SCWP, visit www.scwp.info, or in China www.baihegef.com.

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