As readers of this blog will know there has been much concern over the scientific claims made in a paper published in the journal Zoology in the Middle East. The manuscript and follow up publications can be found (here), and the full citations of the papers are at the bottom of this blogpost.
The Basra Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus griseldis) is listed as Endangered by the IUCN, and is a species that may in the future benefit from targeted conservation action. In the opinion of many scientists the methods used to reach the conclusions of the original paper highlighted below, did not reflect well established ornithological techniques. In the absence of any explanation as to how polygny can be assessed without individually marked birds, and how Basra Reed Warblers can be sexed by sight in the field, we have no option but to refute the findings of this research. Further details are within the papers below.
OSME originally posted a blog on this issue back in October 2014 which was widely circulated and received many comments from across the ornithological and conservation world. As well as on the blog post itself, there was a large amount of correspondence via email. In recent months, some of that correspondence became less than helpful. As an act of good faith OSME decided to remove the original post and just retain the concluding blog post of May 2015 (here). Disappointingly, this act of good faith has been interpreted by some as a retraction of OSMEs support for the views expressed in Porter 2015a and 2015b.
More than two years since the manuscript was first published, and more than 12 months since Porter et al commented on the methods and conclusions of the paper, we are no closer to getting a satisfactory answer to the questions raised.
I reiterate that OSME has not retracted its support for the issues raised in Porter et al 2015a and 2015b. Indeed, OSME is more determined than ever to highlight and seek clarification of the unsubstantiated claims made by Al-Sheikhly, Nader & Barbanera (2013).
Dr Rob Sheldon
Richard Porter, Leo Batten, John Burton, Jon M. Collinson, Peter Cowan, Peter Kennerley, Guy M. Kirwan, R. G. Newell, David Pearson, Roger Riddington, Mudhafar Salim, Robert Sheldon, Derek Scott & Martin Woodcock (2015a): Towards a better understanding of Basra Reed Warbler Acrocephalus griseldis (Aves: Passeriformes: Acrocephalidae) ecology? A comment on Al-Sheikhly et al. (2013), Zoology in the Middle East, Volume 61, Issue 2, pp 190-192
Omar F. Al-Sheikhly, Iyad Nader & Filippo Barbanera (2015): A response to the comment of Porter et al. (2014) on “Breeding ecology of the Basra Reed Warbler Acrocephalus griseldis (Hartlaub, 1891) in Iraq (Aves: Passeriformes: Acrocephalidae)”, Zoology in the Middle East, Volume 61, Issue 2, pp 193-199
Richard Porter, Leo Batten, John Burton, Jon M. Collinson, Peter Cowan, Peter Kennerley, Guy M. Kirwan, R. G. Newell, David Pearson, Roger Riddington, Mudhafar Salim, Robert Sheldon, Derek Scott & Martin Woodcock (2015b): Rejoinder to the Response of Al-Sheikhly et al., Zoology in the Middle East, Volume 61, Issue 2, p 200