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First national IBA directory for…

…Guadeloupe

AMAZONA (Association des Mateurs Amicaux des Z'Oiseaux et de la Nature aux Antilles) has published the Caribbean's first national language Important Bird Area (IBA) directory. Les Zones Importantes pour la Conservation des Oiseaux en Guadeloupe represents the culmination of a collaborative effort by the island's biologists and birders to gather all available knowledge about their birds, habitats and biodiversity to determine international priority sites for conservation.

Guadeloupe, a département d'outre-mer (DOM, overseas department) of France, is in the Lesser Antilles between Montserrat and Antigua and Barbuda to the north and Dominica to the south. Nine IBAs have been identified covering 505 km² (including marine areas) and about 19% of Guadeloupe's land area. Most of the IBAs lack any formal protection.

"There is a need to develop a legal framework to ensure IBAs receive the protected status they deserve", said Alain Mathurin, one of the directory's authors.

The protection of most of these IBAs is part of the French government’s commitments and responsibilities under the 1976 Nature Protection Law, and to international conventions such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the Ramsar Convention. These international commitments are particularly important since the European Union Birds (409/79/EC) and Habitats (43/92/EC) directives do not currently apply to the French Overseas Departments.Guadeloupe's IBAs hold significant populations for 23 key bird species including the Vulnerable Forest Thrush Cichlherminia lherminieri, the Near Threatened and endemic Guadeloupe Woodpecker Melanerpes herminieri, and a further 17 restricted-range birds. These species are threatened by poaching, introduced species, and habitat destruction as a result of urban and agricultural expansion. Hunting was introduced by law in 1953 yet it remains unregulated.

"IBAs are a great tool to demonstrate to hunters the value of protecting sites for birds even where legal designation as ‘Réserve Naturelle’ or ‘Parc National’ is not possible", said Anthony Levesque, senior author of the island's IBA directory. Hunting is a particular issue for Forest Thrush, West Indian Whistling-duck Dendrocygna arborea, White-crowned Pigeon Patagioenas leucocephala and Caribbean Coot Fulica caribaea – their protection must be strictly enforced if Guadeloupe is to retain these species in the long-term.

While compiling the directory, the team exposed significant gaps in information concerning the population sizes and trends for several key bird species, and also the conservation status of a number of sites. A coherent monitoring program is clearly an urgent priority for some species (such as the Forest Thrush, other hunted species, and the seabirds and waterbirds). The results of such monitoring can feed into the annual assessment of state, pressure and response variables at each of Guadeloupe's IBAs which would provide a much-needed status assessment for these internationally important biodiversity sites as well as highlighting management interventions required to ensure their long-term integrity.

4th July 2014