The Aquatic Warbler, Acrocephalus paludicola, is by far the rarest European warbler. Its breeding population, estimated at 12.500-20.000 individuals, is essentially distributed over Poland and Bielorussia. Its wintering zone is not very well known, but appears to be mostly in western tropical Africa. During the last decades, it was found that the main stopover and fattening areas during the post-breeding migration are located in north-western France, along the Channel coast, and further down along the Atlantic. This region is characterised by a string of coastal marshes which are currently suffering from a lack of adequate management. This is further aggravated by the secretiveness of this little warbler and the lack of knowledge on behalf of site managers about its ecological requirements. Other threats on wetland zones (degradation of the hydraulic functioning, natural filling-up, water pollution, and man-made changes...) have also led to a loss in diversity of Frances coastal marshes, and hence to a decline of their ecological value as feeding and resting habitat for the Aquatic warbler.
The main objective of the LIFE project is to increase the area of favourable habitat for migrating Aquatic Warblers in the Atlantic coastal marshes of France. Two specific aims can be distinguished:
- the ecological maintenance or rehabilitation of 3 important stopover marshes in Brittany, all known to be important staging areas for Aquatic Warblers;
- the promotion of the management know-how acquired during the project.
Further project actions include:
- improving the knowledge on the species and its habitat through a radio-tracking;
- making an inventory of additional spring migratory stop-over sites;
- protecting the most important stop-overs by controlling management and property status on 30 hectares, through management agreements or land purchase;
- managing 265 ha of marshes to transform them into optimal warbler habitats; this management will consist in rehabilitation (clearing out, digging ditches, installing gates), maintenance work and in management of water levels;
- promoting the importance of these zones among the local population (through films, meetings, brochures and activities for the general public and school children);
- organising technical workshops and publishing the management know-how gained.