A great deal of attention has been given to how, why and where birds migrate between continents. But the complexities of migratory movements restricted to one continental land mass have largely been overlooked.
Efforts are being stepped up to harmonise conservation action between and within continents. In 2011 the United Nation (UN) Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals passed a resolution to develop an action plan for the conservation and protection of migratory landbirds in the African-Eurasian flyways region. This was in response to significant declines in global populations of a number of migratory landbirds.
A review of migratory bird species that breed in Europe and winter in Africa highlight a decline between the 1960s and early 1980s of species wintering in the Sahel, a semiarid region extending from Senegal eastward to Sudan. There was also a second major decline after the 1980s of species wintering in forest zones. While there is some knowledge about the drivers of these declines in Europe, there is less information for Africa.
Agreement on what needs to be done
Action on the UN resolution, involving governments and key nongovernmental organisations like BirdLife International, led to the creation of a working group to focus on African-Eurasian migratory landbirds. The group developed an action plan detailing specific recommendations that address particular threats. The threats include habitat loss, excessive hunting, collision and wildlife diseases.
Emphasis is placed on research that could help better direct conservation action and policy. To answer this call, research – in collaboration with the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa and the South African National Biodiversity Institute – set out to investigate migration connectivity in intra-African migratory landbird species. The transdisciplinary approach is expected to answer the question of migration connectivity across Africa.