Data on the density of Aquatic Warbler and plant associations in the marshes of the Sporovskiy reserve (Byelarus') were collected between 1996 and 2003. The species density changed between years from 135 to even 0 males per km2. The density and numbers of these birds are governed mainly by changes in the groundwater table caused by floods, droughts or fires. Aquatic Warblers breed successfully when the groundwater table coincides with the topsoil level; the optimal water table lies in the range from 12 cm above the soil to 5 cm below it. Between 1981 and 2002 successful first-clutch breeding occurred 11 times (47.8%); in only 4 years was second-clutch breeding successful (17.3%). First and second clutches both failed in 9 years (39%). The pattern of changes in the population size and data on the recovery of the population size following such unfavourable years indicates that the key factors governing the overall population size are not migration or wintering conditions, but rather the state of the breeding biotopes. Active management of fenland still in its natural state is therefore of paramount importance.
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Vol. 39 • No. 1