The International Waterfowl (and Wetlands) Research Bureau: c. 1945–1995

David A. Stroud, Jean-Yves Pirot, Mike Smart


The International Waterfowl and Wetlands Research Bureau (IWRB) – an international network of networks co-ordinated by a small Secretariat – was the most important international motivator for wetland conservation of the 20th century. Its legacy includes the International Waterbird Census (IWC) – one of the largest internationally harmonised biodiversity monitoring schemes in the world; advocacy for, and drafting of, the first multilateral environmental agreement – the “Ramsar” Convention on wetlands; the production of multiple contextual data syntheses, including a global series of regional wetland inventories and waterbird flyway atlases; providing mechanisms through which international concerns regarding “unwise use” of wetlands could be highlighted and raised with governments; and the establishment of a wide range of global standards for conservation, notably the selection of protected areas which remains fundamental to contemporary wetland conservation. This is the story of the organisation, from its origins in the 1920s to its eventual merger with other regional wetland conservation organisations in 1995, told in relation to its structures, staffing, activities and achievements. Whilst much has been taken forward since 1995 and continues to this day, through legacy initiatives and successor bodies, much has also been lost – which is regrettable, especially given the biodiversity crisis now facing the world.

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