New web tool to integrate migratory bird conservation in development projects gets lift-off

Posted on Thu, 20/02/2014

The BirdLife UNDP/GEF Migratory Soaring Birds (MSB) project has launched an innovative web tool that will enable industries to immediately identify potential conflict in site selection with migratory soaring birds within the Rift Valley / Red Sea flyway.

The MSB Sensitivity Mapping web tool allows developers, planning authorities and other stakeholders to identify potentially sensitivity for soaring bird migration of any proposed development site. A range of information is immediately generated and displayed outlining:

  • known data sources of migratory soaring birds within 20 km of the site;
  • recorded satellite tracks of migratory soaring birds within this area
  • predicted sensitive species that are expected to be present
  • the sensitivity of species to collision risk (of particular value for wind energy and transmission line developments)

Using this tool, developers can get an immediate understanding of the potential ornithological constraints which may need to be considered at the site level.

It can thus provide a service for strategic planning of developments, unparalleled initial guidance on the relative risks of different locations and an early warning system for the need to plan development sustainably. This process is vital to maintain the integrity of the flyway and the sustainability of projects.

Developers, consultants and stakeholders can further use this tool to plan appropriate Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) at the site level. With the tool providing an initial overview of migratory species which could be in the area, this can then inform the evaluation process.

The Rift Valley / Red Sea Flyway hosts the migration of over 2 million soaring birds through the region migrating, back and forth, from wintering grounds in Africa to breeding grounds in Europe and Central Asia. This flyway is the second biggest in the world for soaring birds.

Yet this area is also subject to huge development pressures, as increased demands for energy, food supply, and tourism lead to significant changes in land. The Migratory Soaring Birds (MSB) project aims to integrate conservation of visiting birds into a range of key sectors across the region.

The MSB Sensitivity Mapping Tool is not intended to replace Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) but rather to inform and complement their findings. It is a vital tool for engaging in strategic planning. The performance of the tool will continue to be improved through ongoing data collection—including the incorporation of information gathered through Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEAs), and EIAs, where provided.

This freely available tool has been developed to enable industry to ensure that migratory soaring birds can co-exist with the need for rapid development within the flyway. This tool has been funded by the BirdLife UNDP/GEF Migratory Soaring Birds project and is available here.