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Defining the key wintering habitats in the Sahel for declining African-Eurasian migrants using expert assessment


The Sahel in West Africa is a major wintering area for many western Palearctic migrants. The breeding populations of many of these have declined over the past 50 years. However, there have been few intensive field studies on migrant ecology in the Sahel and these were generally within a very restricted area. Consequently our knowledge of the distribution of species within this extensive area and the habitat associations of these species is limited. Understanding these habitat associations is essential for the effective conservation management of populations. We brought together a group of experts and consulted a wider group by email to assess the main Sahelian habitat types used by 68 African-Eurasian migrant bird species. Those species that showed strongest declines during 1970–1990 were associated with more open habitats than those newly declining during 1990–2000, when declining species were associated with habitats with more shrubs and trees. Populations of species that winter in the Sahel are generally stable or increasing now as rainfall has increased and is now near the long-term average for the Sahel. Those which use the Sahel only as a staging area are, in many cases, in rapid decline at present.

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