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'Vogelbescherming' and WWF-NL fund new chair in migratory bird ecology

14 May 2012

Adequate protection of migratory birds needs a scientific basis. This will be provided from today by the new chair in migratory bird ecology held by Prof. Theunis Piersma at the University of Groningen. WWF-NL director Johan van de Gronden and Vogelbescherming [Netherlands Society for the Protection of Birds] director Fred Wouters signed a covenant on 14 May 2012 to enable this chair.

The new chair is rooted in the Global Flyway Network, an alliance of research groups from all over the world. In the network, supported since 2007 by Vogelbescherming, biologists from Canada, Argentina, Australia, China and the Netherlands work together on long-term research on migratory birds such as knots, bar-tailed godwits, ruffs and godwits.

Threatened wetlands

These migratory birds make non-stop flights of thousands of kilometres and are dependent on the scarce, often seriously threatened wetlands of the world. ‘Now that there is a chair that concentrates very specifically on migratory bird ecology, I expect that we will be able to expand the power and the magnetism of this global research even further’, says Piersma. ‘This is urgently needed, because thanks to human “co-use” of their habitats, most of the migratory bird populations we have studied are declining rapidly.’

Strengthening research capacity

The support from Vogelbescherming and WWF-NL comprises at least ten years of funding for PhD and postdoc researchers. This is a significant expansion in research capacity in the field of migratory birds and will further strengthen the international leading position of the University of Groningen in this research field. The chair in Animal Ecology, which was held by Piersma at the University of Groningen up till now, will pass to Dr Christiaan Both on 1 June 2012.

Independent research

‘Even though the chair is partly financed by two NGOs, our form of cooperation guarantees the independence of the research’, emphasizes Piersma. ‘I regard it as significant encouragement that Vogelbescherming and WWF-NL are contributing to a solid scientific foundation of their protection work along the migration routes.’

Better protection

According to WWF-NL director Johan van de Gronden, ‘The Netherlands is a crucial link in the migration routes of numerous birds, and world leader in the research on the behaviour of wading birds and migratory birds. The aim is to gain knowledge that will lead to better protection of their living and foraging areas at home and abroad.’

Nature restoration

Fred Wouters, director of Vogelbescherming: ‘Scientific knowledge is crucial for the protection of migratory birds. Vogelbescherming was able to successfully challenge the Dutch mussel farming policy in the Wadden Sea partly thanks to the results of research by Theunis Piersma and his group. The Wadden Sea region is now working on nature restoration. In many other parts of the world, migratory waders are under pressure. The insights generated by the new chair in Global Flyway Ecology will help nature protectors when designing protection strategies for this group of vulnerable birds.’

Note for the press

More information: Prof. T. Piersma

Last modified:15 September 2017 3.28 p.m.
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