Cooperation University of Groningen and Université Gaston Berger (St. Louis, Senegal)

by Jos Hooijmeijer

The LIFE-IP GrassBirdsHabitat project aims to protect wet-grassland breeding bird species, and their habitats, in NW Europe, in particular the black-tailed godwit. The focus is mainly on breeding areas but also on areas important during migration or for wintering. A part of this project (and the complementary project LIFE IP Godwit Flyway) focuses on West Africa and aims habitat conservation and restoration, capacity building and to set-up international collaboration. As part of this, a budget has been allocated for cooperation between the University of Groningen (RUG) and Université Gaston Berger (UGB). During a visit to St Louis in November 2023, we discussed how to shape this collaboration and identify our common interests. 

One of the actions will be appointing 2 joint PhDs who will carry out their fieldwork in West Africa and spend part of the year in Groningen to analyse the data and work on publications. Preliminary profiles have been developed for these PhDs in which one will focus on habitat and foraging ecology of godwits in West Africa. The other one will focus on social-ecological systems for wetland conservation and management in West Africa.

Hundreds of godwits forage on the heavily polluted floodplains at St. Louis, Senegal (photo: Alain Maasri).

Another initiative will be to participate in the 2-year master’s in Ornithology at the UGB. This master is not only about birds (ornithology), but students also have the option to specialise in habitats and management of bird landscapes and valorisation of natural resources and social development in relation to birds.

The Senegal delta will be the focal area for research and habitat restoration. The area has traditionally been a very important stopover and wintering site for many migratory bird species from Europe. Conservation efforts face many challenges like agricultural intensification with heavy use of pesticides and fertilisers, water shortage due climate change and large-scale irrigation, invasive species, overgrazing, salinization and recently exploitation for LNG.

Let’s hope this project will make a contribution to a better future for people and biodiversity.

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