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Wetlands are key habitats connected physically and socially with processes occurring over a much wider territory. The biotic connection through dispersal mechanisms among wetlands is of primary importance to wetland management and policies. However, traditional wetland conservation approaches are based on the preservation of isolated sites considered to be of special importance (typically owing to their importance for concentrations of migratory waterbirds). Research linking local species richness and bird migration suggests that the effect of wetland loss on regional diversity might be much larger than what would be expected from direct habitat loss. Since the biotic connection among wetlands serviced by waterbirds appears to be more efficient within a limited range, the distribution of wetlands in space is a key aspect determining wetland connectedness even in the absence of direct hydrologic links. Protected areas should thus be defined with regard to waterfowl movements and waterbird migration as functional processes contributing to aquatic species migration and local species richness. This calls for a regional approach to wetland management within a continental context. This paper aims at defining an operational view of the dispersion function of wetlands and its implication for conservation policies. For this purpose, we examined the conservation policies of the Ramsar Convention (the international treaty that protects wetlands) and the European Union (as an example of relevant continental level policy-making) from the viewpoint of bird-mediated dispersal of aquatic organisms. We propose nine specific avenues for the inclusion of bird-mediated dispersal in the policy documents examined. Non-governmental organisations and other organisations working in waterbird conservation should also recognise the importance of their policies for aquatic biodiversity at broader levels and avoid compartmentalising their conservation activities. [KEYWORDS: Wetland policy; Wetland management; Biotic connectivity; Bird dispersal; Biodiversity]
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-222
JournalActa Oecologica
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2002

ID: 341956