Identification 1.1: Basic principles
The IBA identification process aims to locate, list and document all the sites that are critically significant (both individually and as networks) for bird conservation. In principle, IBAs are identified nationally, using data collected locally and applying criteria agreed regionally or globally.
To qualify as an IBA, a site must meet agreed, standard criteria. These criteria address the two key issues of concern in site conservation: vulnerability and irreplaceability. The four categories of criteria thus cover (a) globally threatened species (vulnerability) and (b) three classes of geographically concentrated species (irreplaceability): restricted-range species, biome-restricted species and congregatory species.
Usually, the BirdLife Partner, Partner Designate, Affiliate or country programme will lead nationally in IBA identification. Where there is no BirdLife network organisation in-country, a different approach is adopted. This might involve a desk exercise that brings together the available published and unpublished information, relying on national expertise as far as possible. It might involve an organisation outside the BirdLife network. Other regional mechanisms can also be used, for example where there is ongoing species or habitat action planning.
IBA identification is based on data that are as complete and up-to-date as possible. While one or a few people might lead in compiling these data, a wide range of stakeholders (and expertise) are involved in agreeing the initial list and verifying site-specific information.
The IBA identification process provides an opportunity to build the foundation for effective conservation of IBAs. As far as possible, the process is used to:
- Develop technical and conservation capacity within country, especially within BirdLife;
- Build partnerships between key organisations (both Government and non-Government) concerned with IBA conservation;
- Build broad understanding of the IBA process, and broad ownership of the initial site list;
- Focus any new survey work on the most important gaps in knowledge.
IBA identification usually involves one or more national workshops to bring together experts and other stakeholders, draw-up and debate the draft lists, and undertake an initial gap analysis to ensure that relevant ‘trigger’ species have not been left out. In some countries, it has proved useful to set up a co-ordination mechanism through an IBA National Liaison Committee. Such a Committee can help take IBA conservation work forward.
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