Science for a Blue Planet

Featuring cutting-edge work, discoveries, and challenges of our scientists, our partners, and the larger conservation science community.

Reducing human impacts on shorebird habitat in Latin America

Dogs, beach users, vehicles, and plastic waste are among the types of disturbance that threaten shorebirds throughout their life cycle. To face these threats, measures such as workshops to raise awareness, coastal stewardship and monitoring, and signage, among others, are being implemented in Latin America.

Working with partners in the Pacific Shorebird Conservation Initiative and Migratory Shorebird Project we recently released a set of tools designed to address human disturbance on shorebirds and their habitats to promote the recovery of shorebird populations that are declining in the Americas. This toolkit compiles examples and resources from a variety of on-going conservation projects occurring in Latin America focused on reducing disturbance, using diverse methodologies that encompass human dimensions.

“We realized long ago that it wasn’t just enough to study and conserve shorebirds and their habitat in North America if we wanted them to thrive,” says Dr. Matt Reiter, Research Director at Point Blue and Migratory Shorebird Project Steering Committee Coordinator. “So many of these species spend their winters somewhere along the coasts of the 13 countries in North, Central and South America that make up the Pacific Flyway. So we need to be active throughout the Americas.”

As part of a collaborative process, we gathered information from 28 projects who have developed actions to mitigate these threats in 11 countries across the Americas featuring efforts from Latin America (see interactive map). We identified some of the standout mitigation measures, such as workshops to raise awareness, coastal stewardship programs and monitoring actions targeting both shorebirds and the causes of disturbance.

Additionally, we documented six successful case studies, five in important shorebird sites in Mexico, Canada, Ecuador, and Chile, and one at the level of the Pacific and Atlantic Flyways. This documentation covers the entire implementation process, from threat identification to the results obtained, including challenges, key aspects, lessons learned, and indicators used to measure action effectiveness.

This set of tools contributes to the international efforts of the Pacific Shorebird Conservation Initiative and the Migratory Shorebird Project to advance conservation actions and impact mitigation on shorebirds.

“My hope is that countries from throughout Latin America and even beyond find this toolkit useful for minimizing human disturbance and protecting shorebird habitat,” says Dr. Reiter. “We know that governmental agencies and public land managers need access to the best available research when making decisions and we think this is a really valuable new resource for them.”

These efforts were lead by the Calidris Association (Colombia), the Center for Scientific Research and Higher Education of Ensenada-CICESE (Mexico), the National Audubon Society, and Point Blue Conservation Science (United States), and involved the participation of 26 research and conservation groups distributed across the Americans including NGOs, government institutions, universities, and community groups.

During migration and the non-breeding season, shorebirds congregate in key sites in Latin America, becoming especially vulnerable to human disturbances that degrade and limit the access of shorebirds to available habitats, displacing them and reducing their ability to find sufficient food. For this reason, this toolkit is key to highlight Latin America’s efforts to research and mitigate a threat that has not only been identified as a significant factor in decline of shorebird populations, but is also estimated to increase over time.

We thank all the individuals who contributed their experience, lessons learned, publications, photographs, and information to make this toolkit a reality, and hope it will be shared and consulted throughout the Americas.

This document and the research were financially supported by USFWS/USAID (F22AP01976-00 and F22AP01938), the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Environment and Climate Change Canada (Contract No: 3000746534),and the United States’ Forest Service’s International Programs.

Find the toolkit at: Pacific Shorebird Conservation Initiative and Migratory Shorebird Project


For more information:

Olivia Saiz
Research Biologist
Asociación Calidris

Diana Eusse
Migratory Shorebird Project Plus Coordinator
Asociación Calidris

Abril Heredia
Research Biologist
Terra Peninsular

River Gates
Pacific Shorebird Conservation Initiative Coordinator
National Audubon Society

Eduardo Palacios
Senior Research Biologist
Centro de Investigación Científica y de Educación Superior de Ensenada

Matthew Reiter
Migratory Shorebird Project Steering Committee Coordinator
Point Blue Conservation Science