There is growing recognition across the globe that the inexorable decline in the state of nature may have profound consequences for the lives of people and their economies through the loss of the natural resources and the ecological services they provide. There is the equally compelling call for biodiversity to be conserved for its intrinsic and irreplaceable value to mankind too.
In response to this threat, world leaders at the COP6 of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development, agreed to achieve by 2010 a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national level as a contribution to poverty alleviation and to the benefit of all life on Earth. Likewise, the UN's Millennium Development Goal 7 aims to ensure environmental sustainability by integrating the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes and thus reverse loss of environmental resources.
The framework provided by such ambitions has been influential in guiding and streamlining policy responses across the globe. This process, however, critically relies on the availability of headline indicators to understand and report on progress towards the target. This scheme aims at developing such an indicator for Uganda based on monitoring data on common and widespread birds across many landscapes both inside and outside protected areas, where people and wildlife co-exist.
In this context, ‘common birds’ refers to species whose population trends, when aggregated together, can be used to indicate trends in the condition of the wider environment. In general, these will be commoner, widespread, more detectable, species, and most will probably be placed in the Least Concern (LC) category of the IUCN Red List. However, in many cases, it is also appropriate to include some threatened species, generally the ones with larger populations undergoing rapid declines. Birds can act as excellent barometers, or indicators, of trends in the state of wildlife and nature, and thus of the sustainability of human use of landscapes and resources.