Muscat: A three-day international conference to raise awareness about wetlands and stress their international importance for the world's biodiversity will be held at the Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) from Monday.

The Centre for Environmental Studies & Research (CESAR) at the SQU will host the conference on "Oman as a Gravitational Centre in the Global Flyway Network of Migratory Shorebirds".

The event is organised in association with Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ), Ministry of Environmental & Climate Affairs, Shell Development Oman, and Centre for Field Research on Environment, Diwan of Royal Court, Oman.

Commenting on the importance of this event, Dr. Mushtaque Ahmad, Director of CESAR, said that for billions of migratory shorebirds, temperate and tropical wetlands play a crucial role as wintering grounds and stopovers along their migratory routes.

"Worldwide, wetlands are threatened by human activities such as land reclamation projects, industrial pollution, and climate change. Therefore, knowledge about the global connectivity and community of ecology of wetlands are important for conservation and management," he pointed out.

An important aim of this conference is to raise awareness about wetlands and to stress their international importance for the world's biodiversity.

Dr. Ahmad said that the conference will focus on the West Asian-East African flyway, in which Barr Al Hikman, a large pristine coastal wetland in the Sultanate, is a key wintering and stopover site.

Barr Al Hikman belongs to the worlds' most undisturbed tropical intertidal ecosystems and it is an important wintering site for migratory shorebirds within the West Asian-East African flyway.

"It [Barr Al Hikman] is presumably also important for those shorebirds that winter further south, for example in east and southeast Africa, to make a migratory stopover during spring and autumn, in order to replenish their exhausted energy reserves," he added.

In his opinion, without having a stepping stone in the Middle East, these birds cannot complete their migrations between their high arctic breeding grounds and southern wintering areas. "Every year, at least one million migratory [shore] birds use Barr Al Hikman, either to spend the winter or for a migratory stopover in spring or autumn."

The event includes seminars about wetland ecology and the importance of Oman within a worldwide bird migration network.

Some keynote speakers, of which their research is at the forefront internationally, will give seminars about their work in their study area within the global connectivity of shorebirds and ecological research.