Breeding populations of long-distance, trans-Saharan migrant landbirds have been in sharp decline since the 1970s. For most species, we do not yet know whether the factors that are limiting migrant populations are to be found on the breeding ground, the wintering grounds, or on migration. In practice, they may occur at several stages, with carry-over effects between seasons. But our knowledge of these birds in the winter is substantially less than during the breeding season. Appropriate conservation responses to address the threats faced by these species will need to be informed by a robust evidence base, supported by effective information exchange networks.
Knowledge gaps and conservation action
The need for cross-regional and trans-continental collaboration to achieve species recovery for migrants cannot be overstated. For these species, we need to address conservation at an entirely different scale, across the whole life-cycle - in Europe, Africa and Asia. We need to pilot (and monitor the effectiveness of site-based conservation approaches and undertake species recovery initiatives. These need to be based on best available evidence, constantly informed by new and emerging evidence, including that gained through appropriate monitoring and of conservation delivery. Moreover, they need to operate at appropriate scales in innovative partnerships with those organisations best placed to deliver the required research and conservation interventions.
Mainstreaming conservation action
Migrant landbirds are dependent on natural (e.g. woodland, shrubland and grassland) or modified landscapes (e.g. traditional farmland) for much of their annual cycle, and changes to these habitats may have adverse effects on their populations as well as on the local human communities that share these environments. In addition to understanding more about the distribution of migrants in relation to habitat availability, we need to place this in the context of land-use and land-cover change support policy and advocacy effort to mainstream biodiversity conservation into the development policies and practices of the countries concerned.
Under the United Nations Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) there are formal intergovernmental frameworks for cooperation on conservation action that provide governments and others along the length of the flyway with internationally agreed priorities for conservation action, funding and cooperation. The CMS Conference of the Parties (COP) recently adopted a new Action Plan for Africa-Eurasia Migrant Landbirds (AEML), which establishes a framework for delivery of conservation action and supports a forum for collaboration and coordination of research and conservation action for African-Eurasian landbird migrants.