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Wetlands Day: A view on vanishing migratory birds

 Jan 30, 2017

Source: The Sangai Express

By Rahul Ashem

Migratory birds are dependent on wetlands for their breeding seasons. They spend the winter months in wetlands for feeding, resting and nutrient to sustain them for their return trip. Wetlands is an ideal place for migratory birds because of their unique features, quality of water; the availability of food and shelter; and the presence or absence of predators. In particular, wetlands form an important buffer zone to land predators for reducing the risk of predation to nesting or young ones. In the present scenario, the status of wetland dependent birds is losing the breeding ground directly translates into population losses due to human activities like encroachment, eutrophication and lack of educational and environmental awareness among the locals. Such circumstances shift the migratory birds to less suitable habitats leading to lower reproduction and higher mortality rate. The result also contributes to a sustainable population throughout the years. Loktak pat, the largest fresh water lake in the North Eastern regions is designated as wetland of International importance under the Ramsar convention on 23 March 1990. The lake is also listed under the Montreux Record on 16 June 1993, “a record of Ramsar sites where changes in ecological character has occurred, occurring or are likely to be occur. Loktak pat is one such example of vanishing migratory birds in the state.

The only floating National Park, the Keibul Lamjao National Park, which is home to the endangered Dancing Deer, Rucervus eldi eldi, is located on the south-western fringes of the lake. The pat has phumdi’s covered on all sides, not only make the pat beautiful but also give a shine to the surrounding environment. Phumdi is a local word of mixed variety of watery weeds and other herbivore plants species to form the bed like sheet, floating all over the Lake. The pat serves as a source of water for hydropower generation, irrigation, drinking water supply and source of livelihood for the local fisherman. The increase in growing population, changing environment and pollution has caused a severe pressure on the wetland-dependent bird populations in the Loktak. The problem is mainly due to the increased in agricultural activities carried out in the vicinity of the lake along with rapid draining of domestic waste and the rivers containing polluting material attributing to the decrease in wildlife community directly or indirectly as well as deterioration of the water quality. The destruction of habitat fragmentation along the routes also poses a threat to the long distance fliers. Certain change of crop pattern in the surrounding village is also a factor for reducing the vanishing migratory birds in the pat. Similarly, decomposition of phumdis disturbs the water levels in the pat declines the water quality leading to reduce the overall water holding capacity in the lake and reduces its aesthetic value. During the night time, local fisherman used LED bulb to catch birds and other mammals for additional purposes. Such using of LED light affects the mate selection and breeding behaviour in migratory birds. Other threats include over hunting, accidental mortality, long line fishing by catcher, pesticide use and climate change. The impact of climate change disturbs the phenology or timing of natural events of birds leading to the vanishing migratory birds. The rising temperature in the state serves as a trigger for migratory birds to undertake the important events like migration or reproduction, shifts in temperature can change the overall activities. It also shows the sign of early breeding in the spring seasons. Technically, climate change expands the growth of invasive species which undergone significantly change in their ecological character is another factor for vanishing the migratory birds. The need of the hour says that everybody should ponder seriously the issue of vanishing migratory birds, its conservation status and monitoring. Numerous conservationists, Government organisations and NGO’s must go together to protect the migratory birds in various ways including legislation, preserving and restoring bird habitat and establishing capture populations for reintroduction. It is important to construct artificial nesting sites for higher reproductive output and population growth of bird species. Loss of bird species result in the loss of ecosystem services they provide. Habitat restoration and protection is another important step for the conservation issues of many birds.read more>>