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The Mediterranean Waterbird Network: cooperation fostering biodiversity

The Mediterranean Waterbird Network (MWN) is a project that supports and coordinates waterbird censuses throughout the Mediterranean (find out more on the Tour du Valat website [1]).

Initiated in 2012, from a capacity building project in North African countries, in the framework of the AEWA African Initiative [2] (African Initiative for the Conservation of Migratory Waterbirds and Their Habitats in Africa), the MWN first developed based on a partnership between the Tour du Valat, the French National Office for Hunting and Wildlife (ONCFS [3]), and five North African countries (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt), which are represented by the national coordinators of their waterbird censuses conducted in the winter. It has since been extended to other countries in response to the Tour du Valat’s desire to strengthen collaboration throughout the Mediterranean Basin.

MWN waterbird census training in Tunisia, January 2018 © L. Dami / Tour du Valat

Having started this collaborative project in the aim of improving the quality and quantity of waterbird census data in the northern and southern Mediterranean regions, the MWN has subsequently integrated other countries in the Basin to improve the scientific methodology and provide support for their censuses.

An annual workshop—in a different country in the network every year—gives participants a chance to discuss the issues that need attention, and to redefine their needs in terms of joint projects and capacity building.

Fruitful discussion at the 2019 workshop in Evora, Portugal

It is in this context that in April 2019 the most recent workshop of MWN partners was held in Evora (Portugal), immediately after the international conference organized by the EBCC (European Bird Census Council [4]).

At the EBCC event, the five North African partners presented a poster on the latest results of waterbird population trends over the past 28 years. The MWN partners then held a workshop that brought together members from southern and northern Mediterranean countries. Our partners from North Africa and Turkey were able to participate thanks to support from the Agence Française du Développement (AFD), the French Ministry of the Environment (MTES), and the Total Foundation.

Due to the fact that many of the national coordinators attended the EBCC conference, some other countries that were not official MWN members were also able to participate in the half-day MWN workshop (Portugal, Albania, Serbia, and Montenegro). Other partners that have been members since 2017 were also present (France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Macedonia, and Turkey).

Participants in the MWN workshop were able to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the international waterbird censuses (IWCs) in the different countries, which gave the different national coordinators a chance to discuss the difficulties and progress made in their own organisation.

Strengthened scientific and technical collaboration on the horizon

It was also the opportunity to discuss the most pertinent communication tool to develop in order to increase the visibility of IWCs in Mediterranean Basin countries. As a result, a summary report will be published sometime in 2019 concerning the IWCs conducted in partner countries over the past 10 years.

It will enable the active collaboration between the countries to be highlighted, and also to make an overall assessment of IWCs in the Mediterranean. To draft this report, the partners involved will take inspiration from the reports published by the Wadden Sea Flyway Initiative (find out more [5]) and from the annual waterbird census report written by LPO France (find out more [5]).

Participants to the MWN worskhop in Evora (Portugal), April 2019 © H. Azafzaf /AAO

This work meeting also enabled the partners to reconsider the interest of recording their monitoring data on the Mediterranean waterbirds platform [6]. A special session was organised for that purpose to enable our partners to concretely experiment with how to enter data using this tool, and to ask us their questions about the platform.

Finally, a considerable amount of time was devoted to presenting the latest results from the data analysis of the censuses carried out over the past 28 years in North Africa. We focused in particular on the new method required to succeed in making a good estimate of the trends, despite a significant amount of missing data items in the database, due to some local partners’ lack of human and technical resources, or recurrent socio-political issues in certain countries.

The next annual MWN workshop is to be held at the Tour du Valat in 2020.

Contact: Laura Dami [7], MWN Project Leader at the Tour du Valat (e-mail [8])