Successful conservation action depends in part on people pooling and sharing their data, information, knowledge and experience.
BirdLife's priority-setting strategy – through species, sites and habitats – is designed to ensure that the populations and distributions of all birds are maintained, tackling the most vulnerable species first, in the most appropriate of ways. In outline, such an approach appears deceptively simple; in practice, enormous quantities of high quality, up-to-date, synthesised data are needed to select the species, sites and habitats correctly.
BirdLife has implemented a computerised World Bird Database (WBDB) in order to collect and use this information, relying on the expertise of many different research groups within BirdLife's partnership. In this way, priority-setting will be globally consistent but locally accessible to those people within countries where action must be taken.
The WBDB is a two-way channel, enabling data to flow between the people who collect the data or update it, those who collate and verify it, and those who make the analyses that turn data into information and targets, in order to influence policy and decision-making – moving from science to conservation action.
Building for the future
For a decade BirdLife International has been investing in the World Bird Database (WBDB) to support the activities of the BirdLife Partnership. Development of the WBDB started in 1994, with funds provided since 1998 by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (BirdLife Partner in the UK). The database is modular and currently covers species and sites, with further modules likely to be developed in the future.
Now in use across the BirdLife Partnership, the World Bird Database is the repository for much of BirdLife's scientific data – in particular, data on Globally Threatened Species, Important Bird Areas (IBAs) and Endemic Bird Areas (EBAs). It has underpinned the creation of priority-setting BirdLife publications such as Threatened birds of the world and Important Bird Areas in Europe and has provided data for substantial reviews, reports and analyses in collaboration with other international organisations and in support of international conventions and initiatives such as the Ramsar Convention.
What is in the WBDB?
For species, data are stored on characteristics, range, population numbers, habitat use (including relative importance and seasonal use), threats (including timing, scope, severity and impact) and targets for future action. For sites (IBAs), data are included on site characteristics, habitats, land-uses, threats, species present, IBA criteria met, and text accounts across a number of themes.
Key benefits of the WBDB
Key benefits of the World Bird Database are the ability to:
- Manage and validate a large volume of information on sites and species that are of global conservation concern;
- Analyse trends in data and monitor changes;
- Link site data with species data;
- Determine the conservation status of species;
- Produce focused, targeted reports for specific purposes;
- Improve the sharing of information between Partners;
- Improve electronic links to non-BirdLife data and information, such as socio-economic and non-bird data, for use in analyses;
- Link to geographic information systems (GIS) for presentation and analysis;
- Deliver information over the Internet.
How do I access the WBDB?
From 2003 large parts of the WBDB will be available online over the Internet, through BirdLife's Data Zone which will then form the principal channel through which BirdLife data, information and knowledge will be disseminated – although some publications will still be made in paper form as necessary.