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Movements of waterbirds within Africa and their conservation implications

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Waterbirds in Africa have developed diverse strategies to exploit the wide variety of African wetlands. Whilst some species are largely sedentary, especially those in relatively static tropical climates, most demonstrate movements in response to changing seasons and environmental conditions. The onset of rain is an important trigger for migration: some waterbirds are harbingers of the rainy season, whilst others follow in the wake of rain. However, levels and timing of rain can be unpredictable and rain may not fall at all some years. When rain falls in arid and semi-arid areas, productive temporary wetlands can appear rapidly and attract large numbers of waterbirds, many of which are partially nomadic. This unpredictability presents difficult management scenarios. Overall, waterbird movements within Africa are poorly understood, which limits our abilities to conserve waterbirds in Africa and to implement the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement. It will take major resources and many years before we have clear pictures of waterbird movements within Africa. Influencing factors such as climate change and wetland degradation may well lead to further changes in migratory patterns. Nevertheless, conservation measures are required immediately, especially for declining species.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2007

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