New York, NY (BBN)- Poorly planned economic development is at the root of the more than 40 per cent plunge in migratory waterbird populations travelling across Africa and Eurasia, according to a new United Nations-backed report released on Tuesday.

Waterbirds, who must travel up to thousands of kilometres to complete their breeding cycles, are extremely vulnerable to changes in the environment.

The publication, prepared for a meeting under way in Antananarivo, Madagascar, of the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA), said that the figure is at an even higher 55 per cent in Western and Central Asia.

Despite varying causes behind the decline in these populations, the most frequent source is habitat destruction and wetlands exploitation, both often spurred by unsustainable human activity, according to the report, which was supported by the UN, according to a press release issued by the UN Environment Program (UNEP).

Its findings are “a clear signal that both national and international efforts to conserve migratory waterbirds and their habitats need to be significantly increased,” said Bert Lenten, AEWA’s Executive Secretary, according to a UN press statement.

BBN/SI/SS/AD-17September08-12:02 PM