Europe and Central Asia

Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) - Europe and Central Asia

Flamingos at Fuente de Piedra II, Spain  Javier Milla
Photo: Javier Milla


Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) are priority sites for bird conservation because they regularly hold significant populations of one or more globally or regionally threatened, endemic or congregatory bird species, or highly representative bird assemblages.

IBAs are more than a collection of separate sites: they form a network, effective conservation of which should ensure that migratory species can find suitable breeding, stop-over and wintering places along their respective flyways.

IBAs are selected on the basis of internationally agreed and standardised criteria. In Europe, the IBA criteria take into account the requirements of regional conservation treaties, such as the EU Birds Directive, the Ramsar Convention, the Emerald Network under the Bern Convention, the Helsinki Convention and the Barcelona Convention. Hence, IBAs are priority sites for conservation that should be protected by governments owing to their obligations under these legal instruments. BirdLife has been very successful in ensuring that IBAs in the EU are recognised as a ‘blueprint’ for the designation of Special Protection Areas (SPAs) under the Birds Directive, forming one part of the Natura 2000 Network. Many of the protected sites around us are actually Natura 2000 sites - check out our viewer to find out the one closest to you.

The European IBA Programme is the longest running of BirdLife’s regional IBA Programmes. IBA inventories have been published since 1981 and the first European IBA inventory was published in 1989, covering 2,444 sites in 39 countries. A second European IBA inventory was published in 2000, covering 3,619 sites in 51 countries and autonomous regions. In addition to these regional publications, a number of national inventories have been prepared and published by BirdLife Partners, with support from the BirdLife Secretariat.

The European IBA Programme aims to ensure that the conservation value of IBAs in Europe (now numbering more than 5,000 sites or about 40% of all IBAs identified globally to date) is maintained, and where possible enhanced. This is achieved through maintaining an up-to-date inventory of IBAs, monitoring their status using a standardised global framework, carrying out conservation actions on the ground, and advocating policy changes at local, national and international levels. Now that the terrestrial IBA network in Europe is virtually complete, attention has switched in recent years to the challenging task of identifying sites at sea.

This work involves more than 2,000 local volunteers, who form national IBA caretaker networks in their respective countries. These national networks are supported by regional and national IBA coordinators in more than 40 European countries, who are in turn supported by staff at the European and Central Asian Secretariat in Brussels. However, successful IBA conservation also involves close collaboration with other key stakeholders, including land owners and users, local communities, governmental and non-governmental organisations, businesses and international bodies.



Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.