Monitoring of Waterbirds in North Africa for the Conservation of Wetland Areas

The Mediterranean region is extremely rich in biodiversity. Among the most remarkable ecosystems, wetlands are home to a great diversity of species. This ecosystem is also among the most threatened in the world, mainly due to the recent and continued growth of human populations and the joint development of irrigated agriculture, urbanization, industry, transport infrastructure and tourism. Waterbirds (ducks, geese, herons, gulls, terns, etc.) are an important component of the Mediterranean wetlands. Their diversity, abundance and migration habits are important for many of our cultural values and human social practices. These species are since long time subject of monitoring, helping to evaluate the value and health of wetlands ecosystems. Waterbirds are also an excellent way to raise awareness and mobilize civil society for their conservation and beyond, ecosystems on which they depend.

Since July 2013, Tour du Valat has started a 2-year project in North Africa in partnership with four national NGOs (AAO, ANAO, GREPOM and LSB) funded by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF)*. This project aims to improve wetland conservation by developing waterbird monitoring in partnership with local stakeholders. The first objective is to strengthen the monitoring activities of waterbirds in North Africa (particularly in Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia) by implementing or reinforcing monitoring programmes at 8 test-sites (2 per country, see the map below) and by involving local stakeholders at these sites (site manager, local environmental NGOs, agricultural development group, cooperatives, administration, etc.). The second objective is to use results of such monitoring to manage and conserve target waterbird species and their habitats by developing ornithological indicators. The final objective is to reinforce the regional cooperation by exchanging expertise and experiences during regional workshops.

Location of the 8 test-sites (source: google earth)

To achieve these objectives, first step was to create “Support Group” (made up site managers, local NGOs, local communities, local administrations, universities interested in biodiversity) at each test-site to support and influence management of their respective sites. On a second step, members of these “Support Group” will receive theoretical and practical training in the identification of waterbirds and their monitoring on the one hand and in site management on the other hand. Joint monitoring activities will also be implemented at each test-site to improve knowledge of the sites (e.g. abundance and spatial distribution of breeding, migrating and wintering waterbirds, wetland conservation status, etc.). Results of this monitoring will be used to build ornithological indicators to influence wetland conservation at local scale.

Though North Africa is one geographic entity characterized by nearest influence of climatic factor, the development of the national civil society is different according to the national approaches. It currently exists in North Africa a disparity in the levels of knowledge and management / conservation of waterbirds and wetlands, as well as the organization of associative whether for civil society or government life. Frame activities is therefore common to the 4 countries involved in this project but is adapted specifically by each NGO responsible of the implementation of this project (AAO, ANAO, GREPOM and LSB) to each country on the content of training and capacity building to meet the local situation. Tour de Valat, as regional coordinator, gives continuously support and advices to these national NGOs.

By improving skills and awareness of private site managers, civil society and the authorities responsible for the management of sites and national public policies on wetlands on waterbird monitoring, it may be possible to achieve better management and conservation of these key biodiversity sites, now seriously threatened.
Main partners of this project
Regional coordination: Tour du Valat
Algerian NGO: Association Nationale Algérienne d'Ornithologie (ANAO)
Libyan NGO: Libyan Society for Birds (LSB)
Moroccan NGO: Association « Groupe de REcherche pour la Protection des Oiseaux au Maroc » (GREPOM)
Tunisian NGO: Association « Les Amis des Oiseaux » (AAO)

For more information, download the first technical report (July-December 2013) of the project (in French).

* The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund is a joint initiative of l'Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International, the European Union, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank. A fundamental goal is to ensure civil society is engaged in biodiversity conservation.
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