Introduction 4: What are Important Bird Areas?
Biodiversity is not distributed evenly across the globe. Therefore to achieve its mission of conserving birds, their habitats and global biodiversity, the BirdLife Partnership has created a method of identifying the most important places on earth for birds - Important Bird Areas - so that conservation effort and resources can be applied in the most cost effective and efficient way.
Important Birds Areas are:
- Places of international significance for the conservation of birds and other biodiversity.
- Recognised world-wide as practical tools for conservation
- Distinct areas amenable to practical conservation action
- Identified using standardised, agreed criteria
- Sites that together form part of a wider, integrated approach to the conservation and sustainable use of the natural environment
BirdLife's approach to conservation integrates species, site and habitat conservation into a unified strategy which, when combined with sustaining human needs, serves as a comprehensive conservation blueprint for all BirdLife Partners. The BirdLife Important Bird Area Programme is designed to identify, protect and manage a network of sites of international importance for birds and to compliment programmes that focus on species and habitats. While IBAs are specific sites, they are of course key to the conservation of species and habitats and also to sustaining people’s livelihoods in many areas. Thus the IBA concept is central to all aspects of the BirdLife approach to achieving sustained biodiversity conservation.
The first IBA inventory was prepared for the European Commission in 1981 and covered 694 sites in the (then) nine member states on the European Community (O & M 1981). The first region-wide IBA inventory documented 2,444 sites across Europe (Grimmett & Jones 1989) followed by regional directories for 391 IBAs in the Middle East (Evans 1984), 3,619 IBAs in a revised European inventory (Heath and Evans 2000), 1,230 IBAs of Africa (Fishpool and Evans 2001), and 2,293 IBAs in Asia (BirdLife International 2004).
As of 2006 a total of 65 national inventories have been published. To search these IBAs visit BirdLife's Datazone.
IBA programmes are divided into four overlapping stages:
- Start up: consultation, background content assessment, stakeholder analysis and establishment of national partnership and agreements; setting up a suitable institutional framework involving the cooperation of others such as government agencies, development NGO, universities, etc. Agreeing national objectives.
- Identification: the process of identifying potential IBA sites, data collection, field surveys; production of an IBA inventory and population of a database.
- Action planning: setting priorities and implementing advocacy, action and monitoring for IBAs.
- National site conservation programme: establishing a sustainable management cycle in which a programme of advocacy, action and monitoring for the national IBA network is established with security of funding.
- Tools and guidelines for Conservation of Important Bird Areas in Africa (PDF, 235KB)
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