Visualizing how migratory animals connect continents, countries, places and habitats is the result of an international scientific effort under the aegis of the Convention for the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) in developing the first atlas of bird migration across three continents.
CMS, a UN environmental treaty, has launched the Eurasian-African Bird Migration Atlas at the Migration Museum on the Italian island of Ventotene as the first part of a broader initiative to develop a global atlas of animal migration.
The Interactive Atlas is an online platform that maps and analyzes data on the temporal and spatial movements of millions of birds in the Eurasian-African flight path. Researchers from 10 different institutions and data collected from over 50 different organizations contributed to the atlas, which was developed by CMS partners, the European Union for Bird Ringing (EURING) and the Max Planck Institute for Animal Behavior.
A major achievement of the Eurasian-African Bird Migration Atlas is that it has compiled, analyzed and synthesized bird ringing data from 300 species collected over more than 100 years.
In addition, the online mapping tool for over 100 of these species overlays movement patterns identified through bird ringing with tracks obtained from satellite transmitters, GPS GSM tags or geolocation devices. Together they provide the most comprehensive information available about the migration routes of these species.
An important visualization tool
For CMS, whose main goal is to conserve migratory species throughout their range and migration itself as a biological phenomenon, a detailed understanding of the different migratory systems and patterns across the different groups of migratory species is important in order to inform conservation strategies and measures design and implement.
The new atlas offers new insights into species- and population-level migration patterns and into human-related issues affecting them along their migration routes.
CMS Executive Secretary Amy Fraenkel said: “Knowing how animals move and migrate over time and in space is critical to improving our understanding and conservation efforts of migratory species.
The information compiled in the atlas is intended to provide important input to CMS initiatives to maintain ecological connectivity—the free movement of species and the flow of natural processes that sustain life on Earth—and particularly to spatial planning. These relate, for example, to possible interactions between renewable energy infrastructure and animal migration, with particular attention to the risk of collision of migratory birds at wind farms. Maps of seasonal movements in geographic areas can help define strategies to minimize bird mortality risks posed by these infrastructures.
The other main feature of the atlas are four research modules that provide analysis on various aspects of bird migration and human-bird relationships – two modules take a closer look at bird migration patterns, strategies and adaptations, migratory connectivity and long-term changes in migration patterns due to, for example, global climate change .
Another research module provides estimates of the start of return migration for many huntable species covered by the Birds Directive at EU territory level. The start of return migration is one of the key factors in determining the start of the protection period in the year.
The fourth module focuses on a large-scale and long-term analysis of patterns of intentional killing of birds. It describes the prevalence and distribution of intentional killing across the Eurasian-African air routes and identifies areas of particularly intense legal or illegal harvesting, both in Europe and Africa. These findings are of direct interest to the ongoing activities of CMS and the Berne Convention on the illegal killing of birds. In addition, this module provides insights into expanding the geographical scope of surveillance of illegal bird killing, for example along the East Asia-Australasian flyway.
Finally, the expanded historical and geographic perspective may support similar efforts to address the trapping and killing of animals from other taxonomic groups. The project was made possible by the support of the Italian government, with a commitment to CMS granted in 2017 by the Ministry of Ecological Transition (formerly Ministry of the Environment, Land and Sea) under the Migratory Species Champion program.
UN publishes new bird migration atlas
At the launch of the Atlas, the CMS Secretariat signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to raise awareness about the conservation of migratory species and the concept of “ecological connectivity” as part of the project to restore and requalify the former Bourbon Prison of Santo Stefano -Ventotene.
The MoU is with various Italian partners, namely the Italian Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA), which maintains an important ringing station at Ventotene, the National Nature Reserve and Marine Protected Area of Ventotene, the Municipality of Ventotene and the Special Commissioner for the Santo Stefano Islands Project – Ventotene.
Located at the crossroads of important animal migrations, these islands represent a “safe haven” and key node of a large network of sites and habitats as part of the annual migrations of species.