The Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) is a joint initiative of 52 biodiversity conservation organisations, including BirdLife International and a number of national BirdLife Partners. Its aim is to prevent extinctions by identifying and safeguarding all sites holding the last remaining population of one or more Critically Endangered or Endangered species, and hence from where these species are in imminent danger of disappearing altogether.
This approach alone is, of course, not sufficient to prevent species extinctions, as other threatened species are not confined to single sites. However, it is a first line of defence against predictable and preventable imminent species losses, and is an urgent priority for the global conservation community.
AZE uses the following criteria to identify these sites:
- Endangerment: An AZE site must contain at least one Endangered (EN) or Critically Endangered (CR) species, as listed on the IUCN Red List
- Irreplaceability: An AZE site should only be designated if it is the sole area where an EN or CR species occurs, or contains the overwhelming proportion of the known resident population of the EN or CR species for at least one life history segment (e.g., breeding or wintering)
- Discreteness: The area must have a definable boundary within which the character of habitats, biological communities, and/or management issues have more in common with each other than they do with those in adjacent areas.
So far, 595 sites have been identified that must be safeguarded to prevent the extinction of 794 of the world’s most endangered birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles and conifers.
Now that this initial global list of irreplaceable sites has been created, AZE members aim to work collectively with a broad range of partners to protect these sites and species.
How do AZE sites relate to Important Bird Areas (IBAs)?
A total of 170 AZE sites have been identified on the basis of the presence of 216 bird species. All these sites qualify as IBAs, although the IBA identification process is not yet complete in some parts of the world, so only 80 of these have been officially designated so far. Many AZE sites identified for species other than birds also qualify as IBAs because of the restricted-range, biome-restricted, congregatory or other threatened bird species they support. Some 115 (26%) of the non-bird triggered AZEs have already been identified as IBAs, bringing the total number of AZE sites known to be IBAs to 264 (44%). Additional AZE sites will also be found to be IBAs as the inventory process is completed, and it is expected that 50-60% of all AZEs are likely to be IBAs.
AZE sites may be thought of as the ‘tip of the iceberg’ of IBAs, and among the highest priority sites for conservation action. The diagram below illustrates how AZE sites form subsets of IBAs and KBAs (Key Biodiversity Areas).