Effects of sustainable resource use and small-scale habitat restoration on palearctic migrants and resident bird communities in the Sahel zone of Burkina Faso
The combined effects of climate change and increasing pressure of anthropogenic activities are primary causes of land degradation and desertification in the Sahel zone. Unsustainable use of natural resources such as deforestation for firewood and overgrazing by free-range cattle exacerbate poverty and pose a major threat to biodiversity, including resident and migratory bird communities. In this context, the Swiss Ornithological Institute collaborates with the Swiss NGO “newTree” and its local partner in Burkina Faso tiipaalga that have established a large network of enclosures, where the natural vegetation is protected from grazing and can recover, with the aim to benefit both local human communities and biodiversity. Using passive acoustic monitoring, we survey birds and analyze the effects of grazing exclusion on bird communities along climatic and temporal gradients. Specifically, we investigate how seasonal variations of the vegetation affect habitat use by resident and migratory birds within and outside the enclosures. We expect the benefits of grazing exclusion for bird communities to be stronger in more arid regions (i.e., with lower vegetation cover) and during the dry season, when they provide more resources than degraded habitats in the surrounding landscapes. Indeed, in the enclosures, the vegetation remains more stable than outside, delivering a continuous supply of natural resources across the seasons. This project will provide insights on how grazing exclusion-induced variations in vegetation structure can be tailored to maximize their positive impacts on avian and local people communities. We hope that our work will demonstrate the critical importance of small-scale habitat restoration for sustainable livelihood and the conservation of birds and will serve as an example for future habitat restoration projects in the Sahel zone.