1. Avian life history seasonality in changing African environments

Symposium Leaders: Chima Nwaogu, Elizabeth Yohannes, Joseph Mwangi Muthahi, Barbara Helm

Understanding how environmental seasonality shapes life history traits through evolution and plasticity is fundamental to avian biology, especially in our times of rapid change. Yet, much of our understanding is inspired by work conducted in the north temperate regions, whereas most of life evolved and thrives in the tropics. Our understanding of avian seasonality in the tropics has often rested on rather indirect evidence and been prone to sweeping generalisations without in-depth evaluation of underlying patterns and variations among-species and localities. Recently, more papers are reporting ecological research in Africa, with most of it highlighting the unique life histories of tropical birds, and the tendency for tropical environments to influence varying selection pressures and evolutionary responses. Despite this and the centrality of birds in ecology, there has been hardly a symposium focusing on avian life history seasonality at the PAOC. Instead, talks on this subject have been scattered over different sessions. The aim of this symposium, therefore, is to provide a platform for ecologists interested in birds and environmental change in Africa to examine how seasonality of avian life history traits relates to local tropical conditions. We will take a broad view of life-history seasonality, including annual-cycle stages such as breeding, moult, and local migration, but also physiological traits such as immune function, along a gradient of tropical environmental change, including desert, arid and semi-arid regions. We hope to; 1) offer an overview of the current state of research on avian life history seasonality. 2) foster collaborations among people working on avian life history seasonality in Africa. We have attracted international researchers to build bridges to global networks where studies in nature’s rhythms and climate change are well rooted.

2. Impacts of Invasives on habitats, species and communities in Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) in Africa

Symposium Leader: Mwape Sichilongo

In Africa and worldwide, invasive species continue to spread to such an extent that it is causing damage to the environment, human economy or human health. They are still among the leading threats to ecosystems and presenting challenges for habitat managers. Invasive species not only outcompete native species and other resource users but also alter the ecological community structure thus potentially leading to exclusions and extinctions. Urgent and concrete action is required to mitigate this threat posed to biodiversity and people by invasive species. This symposium seeks to bring together stakeholders from the public sector, civil society, research and the private sector to exchange the latest research and technical solutions, evidence of successful responses to outbreaks of invasive pests and concrete regulatory and policy recommendations for the future. It will be a forum to discuss impacts of invasive species within Africa from expert presentations about emerging invasive species science and management issues with lessons from specific case studies. It is suitable for both new and experienced invasive species managers, researchers and development planners and park managers.

3. African Heron Research and Conservation: Global linkages, local impacts

Symposium leader: Doug Harebottle

This symposium and workshop are open to all those who are doing studies on the biology and/or conservation of Ardeidae (“Herons”), or are implementing heron conservation activities. It will provide a forum for heron researchers and conservationists to get together, face to face, and exchange ideas, results and problems of their work. In holding this meeting in Africa, we particularly invite African researchers to present their work in a casual, open atmosphere among other international colleagues. We hope that participants will discuss issues novel to the African continent along with common global issues. African researchers can learn of fellow colleagues involved with heron research and conservation in various other corners of the world and vice versa to further build and intensify our global network of specialists. We encourage those who are working with herons of conservation concern to present new results from their activities at the symposium. We are also eager to hear of more traditional studies/observations on population monitoring, national species distributions, breeding biology, behaviour, taxonomy, movements and migration, etc. In keeping with the theme of this PAOC (Urbanising Africa and its effects on birds), the workshop will focus on management of heronries in urban settings and development of guidelines that can be used to aid in minimizing their negative impact. Case studies from other continents as well can be helpful to inform the discussion, as urbanization of heronries is a global phenomenon. For any questions, please contact Doug Harebottle or Chip Weseloh

4. Nature Conservation and the Arts in Africa

Symposium Leader: Mr Daniel Flenley

Engagement with science and conservation is greatly enhanced where that engagement takes place through the creative arts. Audiences exposed to scientific ideas through such pathways have been shown to demonstrate meaningful change in their understanding of topics and, where the topic has an environmental basis, their behaviour. This approach is used in various forms and contexts across Africa. Our symposium seeks to connect some of these practices and inspire further engagement with this powerful conservation tool. Bird conservation themes are encouraged, but not necessarily essential. Creative modes of presentation are encouraged, but not required.

5. Tracking migrants to reveal the diversity of spatiotemporal strategies and ultimately understand the ecology of migration

Symposium Leaders: Kasper Thorup

Seasonal migration is a widespread phenomenon. Large numbers of birds breeding in the Palearctic spend the non-breeding season in Africa and many African-breeding species move within African during the non-breeding season. We have general knowledge of the distributions of most these species such as general wintering distribution. But the lack of precise knowledge of the movements occurring within seasons and overall connectivity among populations hampers understanding their ecology and the potential for devising conservation actions. The difficulty lies in our inability to track these small birds over longer distances and time frames. While recovering tracking devices is needed to track small songbirds, information on important parameters for understanding ecology, for example mortality and dispersal, generally requires satellite tracking. This symposium will showcase the wealth of information that has been acquired by a variety of tracking techniques from small devices such as geolocators to satellite tracking shedding light on the diversity of on spatiotemporal strategies and how they play out in Africa (and beyond). We will present models for understanding the ecology of migrants in Africa such as detailed study of Afro-Palearctic migration in cuckoos along with intra-African migration of several species. While such life on the move is most fascinating, the phenomenon is overall under threat and we aim to identify promising avenues for future tracking of migration within Africa.

6. Impacts of renewable energy, and the rapid electrification of Africa on bird populations

Symposium Leader: Mr Alvaro Camina and Ms Sam Ralston

Access to reliable, affordable and clean electricity is critical for economic growth, sustainable development and realising fundamental human rights. Yet hundreds of millions of people in Africa lack access to electricity. This deficit is not because the continent lacks energy resources. The International Energy Agency (2019) estimates that Africa’s potential wind power capacity could provide over 250 times the current demand for energy on the continent. This outstanding renewable energy potential and limited access to electricity, combined with a growing population, dramatically reducing costs of renewable power and the global imperative to incentivise low-carbon energy, suggest that Africa is on the precipice of an energy revolution. Many countries could leapfrog fossil fuels in favour of a rapidly growing renewable energy supply.

This energy revolution will have many positive benefits, including environmental (i.e. climate change mitigation). However, renewable energy and associated infrastructure (e.g., overhead power lines) can negatively impact wildlife, including birds. These impacts are potentially significant; many of the species affected already face a myriad of other threats. This symposium will discuss the risks this energy revolution could pose to Africa’s birdlife and potential solutions. We hope to encourage the continent’s ornithological community to rise to the challenge and grow the necessary knowledge and human capital to help the continent realise its renewable energy potential without harming nature.

7. BirdMap: A Bird Atlas Protocol for all of Africa

Symposium leader: Mr Michael Brooks

The African Bird Atlas, BirdMap is a citizen science project that is driven by the energy of several hundred volunteers, who collectively are mapping the distribution of birds across the African continent. Building on the success of the second South African Bird Atlas, Kenya BirdMap, and Nigerian Bird Atlas Projects, BirdMap aims at providing unified approach to mapping the distribution, relative abundance and phenolgy of birds in Africa, using a unified single robust data collection protocol. To gather data, volunteers select a geographical ‘pentad’ on a map and record all the bird species seen within a set time frame, in order of species seen. This information is uploaded to the BirdMap database and is used for research and analysis by numerous biodiversity agencies, including the South African National Biodiversity Institute, BirdLife South Africa, as well as academics and students at various universities. This symposium is aimed at highlighting the lessons learned while developing the projects and best-practices that each project has developed to manage and roll out the initiatives in their areas. It also aims to introduce the protocol and project and open discussion with interested parties to collaborate into the future. A single robust bird atlas protocol. Creating the largest avian focused dataset for Africa for research and analysis, helping drive conservation aligned policy and development in Africa.

8. West African birds as indicators of biodiversity in an urbanizing world

Symposium leader: Dr. Nico Arcilla

West Africa is home to the Upper Guinea Forests global biodiversity hotspot, a large number of Important Bird Areas, and the primary wintering grounds for long-distance migratory breeding in western Europe. Like the proverbial “canary in a coal mine” used by miners to indicate the quality of the air they breathed, birds provide critical information about the health of our environment. Birds’ high visibility, sensitivity, and responses to environmental change make them valuable indicators of ecological integrity. Bird declines alert us to problems such as habitat destruction, unsustainable exploitation, and climate change. Birds in West Africa are threatened by rapidly increasing human impacts from exponential human population growth, including urbanization and rapidly expanding plantation agriculture that have led to extensive forest destruction and uncontrolled hunting. However, relatively few published studies have assessed human impacts on birds in West Africa. This symposium brings together researchers investigating bird population and community responses to human impacts in West Africa to provide updates on birds’ conservation status and make recommendations to improve conservation action. Speakers will address human impacts on taxa including, but not limited to, forest understory birds, parrots, hornbills, vultures and other raptors, and wintering Afro-Palearctic migratory birds. We will examine birds’ conservation status both in and outside of protected areas, including assessing the effectiveness of protected areas with and without anti-poaching patrols. We will also highlight means towards empowering West African residents to study and protect birds as fundamental to achieving conservation success.

9. Integrating science, policy and development to address unsustainable land use linked to African-Eurasian migrant landbird declines

Symposium leader: Dr Samuel Temidayo Osinubi

Flyway-wide collaboration is key to effectively support conservation action for declining migrant landbirds across their range. This symposium brings together African science, policy and development experts in collaboration with European experts to review existing science, policy and practice, and explore innovative trans-disciplinary opportunities to deliver migrant landbird conservation across rapidly-changing landscapes.

Specifically, we aim to:

  • Improve our understanding of African-Eurasian migrant landbird declines in relation to the latest African research, build a clearer picture of the drivers and potential solutions by synthesizing knowledge from research being conducted throughout the flyway.
  • Improve the science-policy connection between African policy makers and conservation practitioners, and identify key research and policy questions
  • Enhance capacity for policy and practice-relevant research by strengthening collaboration and networking of scientists working on African-Eurasian migrant landbird declines, encouraging collaboration to fill policy and practice-relevant knowledge gaps
  • Bring scientists, policy makers and human development specialists together, creating a novel community to identify opportunities and innovative solutions to tackle African-Eurasian migrant declines while addressing human development needs.

10. Waterbirds and wetlands

Symposium leader: TBA

Africa’s waterbirds and wetlands attract well-deserved attention both amongst ornithologists and also at policy level. Monitoring, researching and conserving waterbirds are subject of a number of complementary initiatives ranging from grassroot ones through collaboration amongst a small number of countries ranging to flyway scale and global treaties. Presentations in this symposium will cover issues of waterbird monitoring and research, showing how this information leads to the conservation of threatened species and critical sites. The symposium will also highlight some challenges Africa’s waterbirds and their critical sites are facing and some new initiatives that aim to improve their conservation status.

11. CMS Vulture Multispecies Action Plan: Implementation in sub-Sahara Africaan assessment of progress

Symposium leader: Mr Andre Botha

The CMS Vulture Multi-species Action Plan for African-Eurasian Vultures (Vulture MsAP) was adopted by all 124 Range States at CMS CoP12 at Manilla in the Philippines in October 2017. This symposium will focus on feedback from various presenters from across Africa about progress made with regard to the implementation of the actions in the Vulture MsAP in their countries/regions and what challenges and opportunities were identified during the first three years since the MsAP was adopted. We will also reflect on what more can and must be done to further promote and accelerate implementation across the range in Africa.

12. Raptors and the Anthropocene

Symposium leaders: Kailen Padayachee and Dr Petra Sumasgutner

Raptor populations throughout the world are being affected by anthropogenic drivers. Raptors are known to be susceptible to changes in land use and climate, as well as to direct persecution and environmental pollution. These factors are unlikely to operate independently, as for example climate change is likely to exacerbate the effects of rapid habitat change on population dynamics. Raptors vary in their responses; some are particularly vulnerable due in part to their slower life histories, while other species have shown high plasticity and positive population trends in response to factors such as increased urbanization. Simultaneously, raptors may have a range of impacts on humans, from essential ecosystem services like the control of rodent pest species to problematic aspects such as predation on species of economic and conservation concern or interference with the development of transport and energy infrastructures. Finding sustainable solutions to these problems involves a combination of strong ecology combined with partnerships with policy makers and stakeholders. This symposium aims to provide a platform to highlight recent findings on this diversity of raptor-human interactions and on alternative approaches to mitigate conflicts and promote coexistence in order to maintain viable raptors populations in a changing world.

13. Poison Response Training for Bird Conservation: Developing Best Practices

Symposium leader: Corinne Kendall

Poisoning has become a significant threat to Africa’s birds, particularly vultures, cranes, and waterfowl. Several groups are using poison response training with communities, rangers, government officials, and law enforcement as a strategy to address this important issue. This session will cover different approaches to poison response training and other techniques for addressing the threat of pesticide poisoning to birds throughout Africa with a focus on lessons learned, challenges, and development of best practices. Speakers will cover different strategies that have been tried as well as their strengths and weaknesses in relation to responding to and reducing the threat of poisoning. The symposium will cover ranger-focused trainings, community-focused trainings, making the link to human health, and treatment of affected birds. The goal of the session will be to use current experience and practices in poison response training from a number of different countries to work towards best practices for poison response trainings in the future.

14. Developing capacity of early-career conservation leaders in Africa

Symposium leaders: Dr. Julius Arinaitwe and Ms Sherilyn Bos

Africa is well-endowed with biodiversity and still has the opportunity to ensure a future where people and nature live sustainably and in harmony. The threats to this rich resource are underpinned by global demand for food and raw materials, the imperative of governments to lift growing human populations from poverty and the large scale and severe negative impacts of climate change, among others. To attain this future scenario demands leaders able to articulate a fresh narrative that places nature as a positive contributor to sustainable development. Africa has a large young population in whose hands the sustainability of nature will ultimately depend. It is important that Africa develops conservation leaders to whom this responsibility will be handed and some civil society organisations, academic institutions and Protected Area agencies are making progress on this issue. This session aims to: a. Share information on the opportunities available for capacity/leadership development of early career conservationists; b. Identify key gaps and barriers in this work; c. Develop recommendations for enhancing opportunities and reach of existing/new initiatives. Importantly, the session will propose recommendations to extend the reach and scale of existing opportunities, for example through use of IT and online courses.

15. Urban Wetland Conservation Management – Goals, Experiences and Challenges

Symposium leader: Dr Robert Cunliffe

Wetlands are an important component of the urban landscape for many African cities, due in part to development of population centres in proximity to water sources and in part because wetlands often pose challenges for physical development such that urban development tends to happen around rather than within wetlands, at least initially. Urban wetlands provide important habitat and make an important contribution to bird and biodiversity conservation. More generally, they provide a wide range of ecosystem services and make an important contribution to human well-being. Yet urban wetlands, in the face of rapid growth of human populations and increasing levels of urbanization, are coming under increasing threat and are experiencing high rates of loss and degradation. Drawing on experiences from Harare’s headwater wetlands and that of other African cities, this symposium aims to illustrate the occurrence and importance of urban wetlands, specifically in terms of avian conservation and the often overlooked dependence of urban wetlands on the roles that birds play within them, as well as the threats to and losses of urban wetlands. It further seeks to document and discuss experiences gained in urban wetland conservation and management and to identify lessons learned and how these could be applied to other urban situations elsewhere in Africa.

16. Innovation in vulture conservation: a socio-environmental perspective

Symposium Leaders: Prof. William Bowerman, Linda van den Heever and Hanneline Smit-Robinson

The “African Vulture Crisis” describes the long decline in populations of most Old World vulture species in Africa that have recently been reclassified as Critically Endangered or Endangered using IUCN criteria.  Multiple human-caused stressors have been linked to vulture mortality including: poisoning, directly and in association with elephant poaching; indirectly and in association with secondary impacts from poisons used for human-wildlife conflict; harvesting for trade in vulture parts for traditional medicine and beliefs; alteration of habitat through changes in land use; lead poisoning from big game hunting; drowning in farm dams; and, collisions with electrical power infrastructure, amongst other threats.  The U.S. National Science Foundation funded National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) was developed to produce actionable conservation outcomes working through teams of social and environmental scientists tackling real world problems.  For five years, over 20 scientists and policy makers have been working together on this problem.  We report here on novel approaches including the use of the One Health framework; conservation ethics; conservation criminology; human-vulture relationships; the role of vultures in disease; and, community conservation.

17. Mopane woodlands in a changing world: challenges for biodiversity conservation

Symposium leader: Tiwonge I Mzunara-Gawa

Mopane woodland are the most dominant vegetation type in southern Africa covering an estimated 555,000 km2 in southern Angola, northern Namibia, northern Botswana into Zimbabwe, and central and northern Mozambique, in southern Zambia, Malawi and northern South Africa.These woodlands support a diverse avian community including threatened endemic species such as Black-cheeked and Lilian’s lovebirds. In addition to that, the mopane hosts a diversity of animals including some specialised to this habitat. These woodlands support a range of ecosystem services to rural communities providing fuel, construction materials, medicines and food. Colophospermum mopane is host to mopane worms which are a key livelihood and protein source for communities. The structure of Mopane woodlands is impacted by various forms of disturbance including the harvest of large stems for high quality timber, the production of charcoal, clearance for agriculture and browsing by large herbivores. The commercial demand for Mopane hard wood is rising from both legal and illegal harvesters. Processes such as climate change, this commercial harvest of timber and charcoal production are driving rapid change throughout southern Africa’s woodlands. The recent CITES decision on regulating international trade on some hard wood species may stimulate increased demand for Mopane. This symposium aims to bring together stakeholders from the public and private sector, civil society and academia to explore the latest research into the drivers of change in Mopane woodlands, evidence in the extent of damage and the implications for conservation. The symposium will also begin the conversation on future approaches to management and policy recommendations.

18. Flamingos in a changing world

Symposium leader: Catherine King

Information to follow

19. Plight of African hornbills and conservation innovation

Symposium leader: Dr Lucy Kemp

Only two of the African hornbill species are listed on the IUCN Red Data List (the two Bucorvus spp., listed as Vulnerable), with the remaining species all listed as of Least Concern. Whilst this might be true for some, the IUCN SSC Hornbill Specialist Group (HSG) needs to identify species that may actually be currently Threatened but are in reality listed as Data Deficient. Ongoing deforestation, combined with hornbills being the most commonly found birds in the bush-meat trade, suggests that at least some of the larger hornbill species must be more seriously threatened. The casqued forest hornbills are prevalent in the live trade, with the two Ceratogymna spp. most likely requiring CITES listings. This session aims to i) connect hornbill biologists working in Africa, ii) improve current Red-Listing efforts so that we have a clear idea of where research, conservation action and resources are required and iii) share existing conservation innovations that might be replicated across the continent. This session is for anyone with interests, knowledge and experience of any of the African hornbill species. The HSG would also welcome contact details for any individuals or organisations that are not represented at PAOC, so that we can all build and develop the local and regional contacts, and try and source funds for further conservation activities.

20. Bird monitoring to support decision making and reporting to Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs)

Symposium leaders: Humbu Mafumo, Gwawr Jones, Sarah Scott

Bird monitoring data is critical for evidence-based conservation action but also for reporting on policies and international agreements. This symposium will bring African and European experts together to start a discussion about:

  • How bird monitoring data is currently being used for reporting on key agreements e.g. Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) & Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
  • Challenges and barriers to reporting, including linking to habitat monitoring and what to measure when it comes to surveys
  • Innovative solutions to data collection & analysis to support decision making

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