Reversing the declines of African‐Palaearctic migrants

Understanding the social and economic factors driving land use change in sub‐Saharan West African wintering areas
There is widespread concern about the population status of Palaearctic-African migrant birds. Long-distance migrant species are declining across Europe. Of the long-distance migrant passerines species that travel to sub-Saharan Africa 71% have declined. The Sahel region is a key habitat for Palaearctic-African migrants and the majority depend on it at some stage in their life cycle (eg spring/autumn staging posts or wintering area). Land cover change, especially associated with agricultural intensification, has been rapid and extensive. Drought and habitat degradation in West Africa has been implicated in the declines in some migrant species but links between actual land cover change and declines in migrants are poorly understood and, with new field research, land cover change will probably be implicated in the declines of more species.

This project, together with ongoing ecological research, will provide a better understanding of the habitats the migrant birds occupy in the Sahel together with a framework for better understanding the complex mix of social and economic factors that drive land use change in the Sahel region. By understanding these drivers better, it will be possible to understand how to promote and test land use practices that are aimed at improving the conservation status of migrants in the Sahel as well as improving people's livelihoods. Through the workshops, papers and policy briefs, the results will be communicated and promoted to the ecological, development and aid communities in the UK and regionally through the BirdLife network in Africa.

The project was funded by the CCI Collaborative Fund for Conservation and also received matching funding from the Isaac Newton Trust.

Project Aims

This project aimed to review knowledge and improve understanding of the social, economic and policy drivers of landuse change in dry land West Africa that may be associated with population declines in African-Palaearctic migrant birds.

Conservation Impact

This collaboration has resulted in a successful working partnership and also development of new partnerships outside the project team, for example VBN, a BirdLife partner in Netherlands. It has also resulted in the publication of scientific papers and associated policy briefs and has contributed to the preparation of a larger research programme.


  1. Three diagrams outlining (a) the drivers, (b) the changes in management and (c) the likely winners and losers amongst the African-Eurasian bird assemblage for drivers of agricultural change
  2. A Workshop Report: The Drivers of Land Change Relevant to Migratory Birds in the Sahel

A series of four research briefs were also produced:

  1. Migrant Birds in the West African Sahel
  2. Key habitats for declining Migrant Birds in the West African Sahel
  3. Migrant Birds and Environmental Change in the Sahel
  4. Drivers of Land Use Change and Migrant Birds in the Sahel


CCI partners Involved

British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) is an independent scientific research trust specialising in impartial evidence-based knowledge and advice about populations, movements and ecology of birds and...
The Department of Geography's research clusters focus on society and environment, development and political ecology, culture and demography, environmental processes, landscape modelling and climate...
The Department of Zoology carries out wide-ranging work in ecology and conservation including conservation science, aquatic ecology, pathogen evolution and evolutionary ecology. Research of the...
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) speaks out for birds and wildlife, tackling the problems that threaten our environment. It is the largest wildlife conservation organisation in...

Related Resources

Resource Title Description Type
Diagrams linking drivers, changes in management and the likely winners and losers amongst the Afro-Palearctic migrant bird community A set of diagrams linking drivers, changes in management and the likely winners and losers amongst the Afro-Palearctic migrant  bird community were produced as part of the CCI funded project... Handouts and booklets
Research Briefs: Land use change and migrant birds in the Sahel A set of four research briefs have been produced as outputs of the CCI funded project Reversing the declines of African-Palaearctic migrants: understanding the social and economic factors driving... Policy briefs, Handouts and booklets
The impact of land use change on migrant birds in the Sahel In this paper, published in Biodiversity, a systematic review of published scientific literature is used to assess the evidence base for the links between dryland environmental change in the Sahel... Journal articles