Shorebirds (Charadriiformes) and their wetland habitats are under threat worldwide. While data exist for shorebird population trends for many parts of the world, two thirds of Australia’s populations have not been assessed. We used data from the National Waterbirds Survey (create link to the page), which sampled about a third of the Australian continent over a period of 24 years (1983-2006). We showed that migratory shorebirds have declined by 73%, Australian resident shorebirds by 81%. Of the ten wetlands supporting the highest number of shorebirds within the survey bands, eight were inland wetlands and only two coastal, emphasising the importance of inland wetlands for shorebirds. Wetland area decreased significantly at four of the ten main sites. Annual rainfall showed no trends (1983-2005) but water extraction was substantial for four of the ten wetlands, contributing to reduced flooding extent and frequency. Loss of wetland due to river regulation is a significant contributor to the drastic decline in shorebird numbers in Australia, largely unrecognized in international conservation agreements in Australia.


This project has three main objectives:

  1. Establish long-term population trends of shorebirds in eastern Australia;
  2. Determine the relative importance of inland wetlands to shorebirds; and
  3. Develop a habitat model to predict habitat use of shorebirds across Australia.

Dr Silke Nebel – 
Dr John Porter –
Professor Richard Kingsford –

Peer-reviewed publications

Nebel. S., J.L. Porter & R.T. Kingsford. Effects of river regulation on shorebird populations in eastern Australia. in review.

Nebel, S., J. L. Porter and R. T. Kingsford (2008). Long-term trends of shorebird populations in eastern Australia and impacts of freshwater extraction. Biological Conservation 141(4): 971-980. [PDF]


Kingsford, R.T., S. Nebel & J. Porter. 2005. The importance of inland wetlands for migratory shorebirds in eastern Australia. Internal Report to Commonwealth Government of Australia.

Conference presentations

Nebel, S., J. Porter & R.K. Kingsford. Long-term trends in shorebirds numbers in eastern Australia. Biodiversity Extinction Crisis Conference, Jul 07, Sydney.

Nebel, S., J. Porter & R.K. Kingsford. Long-term trends in shorebirds numbers in eastern Australia. Australasian Wader Study Group Meeting, Jul 07, Newcastle, Australia.

Kingsford, R.T., S. Nebel & J. Porter. The importance of wetlands in inland Australia for migratory shorebirds. Australasian Ornithological Conference, Dec. ‘05, Blenheim, New Zealand.


Aus Gov Logo

Natural Heritage Trust


Research Program: 
Research Themes: 
Rivers and Wetlands
Go to top