A Third of the World’s Golden Plover Nest in Iceland
More than a third of the world’s golden plover and around 27% of the world’s whimbrel populations nest in Iceland, RÚV reports. These findings were among those included in a paper entitled “Icelandic meadow-breeding waders: status, threats and conservation challenges,” published in the most recent issue of the Wader Study journal of shorebird science. According to the paper, the main threats to both bird species are habitat loss and climate change.
The article was coauthored by Dr. Lilja Jóhannesdóttir, a specialist at the South East Iceland Nature Research Center, and colleagues at the University of Iceland’s South Iceland Research Center, the University of East Anglia in the UK, and the University of Aveiro in Portugal.
Iceland has an incredibly large population of wading birds compared with those in neighbouring countries, where these birds’ habitats have been aggressively infringed upon, particularly due to agricultural expansion. However, in Iceland “…substantial expansion of agricultural land only began after the 1940s,” reads the paper abstract. “…Large areas of natural or semi-natural habitats are therefore still common and widespread in Iceland, and the current mosaic-like landscape created by areas of agricultural land within these habitats may help to provide the resources needed by the very large populations of waders that breed in the country.”
While wader species “have all been protected from hunting and egg-collecting by law since the 20th century,” however, these bird population still face threats in Iceland. “[L]owland landscapes in Iceland are changing quite rapidly, as a result of agricultural expansion, afforestation, shrub encroachment and widespread construction of summer cottages, and all of these developments pose potential threats to these species.” There are, explain the authors, no specific conservation efforts are currently aimed at meadow-breeding waders in Iceland.
In addition to the golden plover and whimbrel, roughly 12% of the world’s redshanks, 10% of the world’s dunlin, 7% of the world’s black-tailed godwits, and 3% of the world’s oystercatchers and snipes nest in Iceland as well.
In addition to habitat encroachment, climate change poses an incredible threat to Icelandic wildlife. A recent report projected that around 90% of animal species that call Iceland and the surrounding waters home will disappear in the next 50 years due to climate change.