Science and Policy to Address Threats to the Afro-Palearctic Migratory Birds: new research and future policy

Science and Policy to Address Threats to the Afro-Palearctic Migratory Birds: new research and future policy

The decline in long-distance migrant landbirds is an important issue of growing conservation concern. Technology is enabling rapid advances in research, but an overview and gap analysis to aid development of appropriate policy and conservation action responses has been lacking.

This project reviewed and synthesised recent advances in knowledge of African-Eurasian migrants. Science and policy experts joined a two-day workshop to review these recent advances, flag gaps and identify future science, policy and practice priorities at the flyway scale.

Recommendations provided a key input to a subsequent Joint Nature Conservation Committee workshop set up to advise UK Government on potential action and policy in relation to African-Eurasian migrant declines. The workshop led to further collaboration to better engage African scientists, policy makers and the aid community in flyway scale conservation efforts through a second CCI funded workshop to be held at the Pan African Ornithological Congress in Africa in 2020. The workshop resulted in an editorial in press in the journal Oryx , preparation of a knowledge review and science and policy priorities for publication in a peer reviewed journal and a key priority action for African-Eurasian landbirds being included in recommendations to the 13th CMS COP in February 2020



Project Aims

To synthesise new knowledge derived from (i) new and emerging tracking technologies (ii) field studies of migrant birds in Africa (iii) survey and demographic data from Europe (iv) remote sensed earth observation data of land cover change in Africa (v) new insights from the breeding grounds, (vi) new theoretical frameworks and (vi) links with social geography, aid and development communities.

The knowledge would be used to identify future priorities for science and policy which would be communicated to key audiences through scientific publications and policy briefs aimed, in particular at international agreements CMS, the CBD, the UNCCD.


Key Activities

The project had three key phases:

  1. A review and synthesis of recent advances in knowledge of AP migrant land birds has been completed focussing on areas such as new/ emerging tracking technologies, new detailed field studies in Africa, use of European survey/ demographic data and of earth observation data of land cover change and links with social geography, aid and development communities. This framework formed the basis for workshop presentations and a review paper in preparation.
  2. A two-day workshop was held in DAB in March 2019 with expert scientists and policy/decision makers attending from UK, Europe and Africa. Scientists presented ‘new knowledge developments’ and a facilitated interactive session was used to identify and agree future priorities for both science and policy.
  3. The results of the workshop have been communicated through (i) an editorial in the journal Oryx (in press, vol 54 January 2020  (ii) The knowledge review and science and policy priorities are in draft as an open access scientific publication in IBIS  (iii) communicating the workshop outputs to key decision makers.

Conservation Impact

The main conclusions and recommendations of the project were:

  • We need to continue diagnostic research, particularly tagging and tracking birds, build capacity and increase collaboration between researchers within the flyway to answer key conservation questions and collate and analyse relevant data, including to identify key staging and wintering regions.
  • Resources need to be re-focussed on trialling some ‘best guess’ solutions combined with monitoring and subsequently adapting, replicating or scaling up these actions.
  • In the breeding grounds profitable approaches could include identifying where migrants are doing well and ‘replicating’ these habitats elsewhere. Retention/creation of patches of scrub and woodland as breeding habitat and measures to boost insect populations either through reduction in chemical use and/or habitat creation may be ‘generic actions’ with widespread benefits.
  • In African staging and wintering grounds a generic and achievable action’ may be retaining and enhancing cover of ‘migrant friendly’ tree species in the wider landscape beyond traditional forest protection. Further research is needed on intensity of use of different habitats and specific tree species by migrants on passage and wintering grounds. Existing/ planned large scale aid and development focused initiatives, , could provide ‘natural experiments’ with monitoring helping identify modifications that would benefit birds without impacting on people or even create ‘win-win’ scenarios. Empowering African conservationists to develop and monitor smaller grassroots initiatives may lead to development of sustainable long term solutions..
  • Flyway scale action could capitalise on the way migrant birds uniquely link disparate communities, creating cross-sectoral ‘communities that care’



1. An editorial for the journal Oryx was published in Jan 2020 Action Before Certainty For Africas European Migrant Birds pdf

2. The workshop provided impetus for the compilation of UK and French data on tagged turtle dove into an animation of the full migratory cycle. This was used on world migratory bird day and can be found here With the accompanying blog

3. Documents submitted by the AEMLAP secretariat to the CMS COP 13 (meeting in India in February 2020) urges Parties to address the issue of habitat loss and degradation for migratory landbird species through the development of policies that maintain, manage and restore natural and semi-natural habitats within the wider environment. It specifically refers to the Cambridge Conservation Initiative workshop conclusion that the “single most beneficial ‘generic action’ in the non-breeding grounds is … retaining and enhancing tree cover in the landscape, specifically through measures in the wider landscape beyond traditional forest protection” and the opportunity to use ongoing aid and development initiatives aimed at increasing tree cover as natural experiments.

4. The workshop outputs have been used to inform a JNCC workshop in March 2019 and fed into a successful CCI grant application to fund a similar workshop in Africa (PAOC 202 Zimbabwe)

Project Overview

Type: Funded Projects
Theme: Policy and governance
Project code: CCI 05-18-003
Start date: October 1, 2018
Status: Complete

Project team

CCI partners Involved