This is the latest addition to the growing series of publications devoted to the Important Bird Areas (IBAs) of a single country, following those on Ethiopia, Egypt, Madagascar, Kenya, Uganda, Southern Africa, Nigeria and Tanzania. As is the case with many other West African countries, the avifauna of Guinea-Bissau is rather imperfectly known, but the gaps are gradually now being filled, the IBA programme having been a major stimulus. This small country boasts ten IBAs, covering more than one million ha - no less than about one third of the country's surface area. The present publication provides site descriptions, with supporting data, several maps and conservation recommendations. These are preceded by an introduction to the IBA process and to Guinea-Bissau, and a synopsis of threats to biodiversity at the national level. The annexes include an updated bird list of 518 species for Guinea-Bissau, detailing occurrence at all ten IBAs, as well as a mammal list. A comparison of the bird list with the previously published list by Dowsett (1993), which contains 319 species, gives an indication of the amount of data that have recently been gathered. A paper, providing details on more than 100 of these additional species that have not yet been properly documented is in preparation (T. Dodman in litt.).
Despite being small, the country still has a relatively low population density of 31 inhabitants / km2 (in 1997), and has apparently not yet suffered heavy exploitation of its natural resources. The many coastal and inland wetlands are of international importance for waterbirds, with the Bijagos Archipelago alone seasonally supporting close to one million migrant waders. Some areas of the largely unexplored tropical forests are the most westerly point in distribution for several species. However, with an estimated annual increase of 2.9%, the population is growing fast and natural resources are, as everywhere else in Africa, under increasing pressure. This publication, which is entirely in Portuguese and English, provides an invaluable tool to both governmental and non-governmental institutions and organisations that attempt to address conservation issues.