History & Status of KBAs 7.1: Developing the concept and criteria
The Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA) concept developed directly from work on IBAs, with an identical rationale (see Eken et al. 2004):
- Site conservation is among the most efficient ways to reduce global biodiversity loss
Therefore, it is critical to identify those sites where unique biodiversity must be conserved immediately
KBAs seek to identify and safeguard networks of globally important sites.
IBAs use data on birds to identify these sites. In principle, the same criterion-based approach to site identification can be generalised to include any other species. In recent years, various organisations have adapted the IBA approach to identify important sites using information on other taxonomic groups. Such initiatives include important plant areas and prime butterfly areas in Europe (and for plants, other continents now too), important mammal areas in the United States, and important sites for freshwater biodiversity in East Africa. Conservation International adopted a similar approach for defining its Site Conservation Outcomes. And within BirdLife, some Partner organisations have begun to look at how they can extend the IBA concept to biodiversity as a whole.
Since 2004, the main institutions already involved or interested in KBAs have been discussing how to link these initiatives and how to develop a common framework for moving forward. Agreement has been reached on the name for these sites key biodiversity areas and on the rationale and broad criteria for identifying them. The initial outputs of this collaborative work have been published as a scientific paper (Eken et al. 2004) and expanded into a gap-analysis manual for the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (Langhammer et al., in press). It is recognised that the generalised identification criteria still need further practical testing and refinement, especially for freshwater and marine species.
Key Biodiversity Areas fall into the same four categories as IBAs globally threatened species, restricted-range species, congregatory species and biome-restricted assemblages. The KBA criteria are based closely on those for IBAs, with some small differences reflecting their broader and more general application.
In parallel with this, the Alliance for Zero Extinction (a grouping of nearly 60 national and international conservation organisations) has refined and applied criteria to identify the sites where species extinctions appear to be imminent the last places where particular Endangered or Critically Endangered species are found. The first version of AZEs site map and notes was launched in December 2005. AZE sites are all KBAs, reflecting the topmost tier of sites where action is needed urgently.
Most attention has so far focused on terrestrial KBAs have been identified. The marine realm throws up a number of new issues, but the four categories have been identified to apply. Criteria within them have been adjusted so that they are appropriate to the marine realm, and now need further testing.
The KBA criteria have been applied and tested in several places, including the Eastern Arc and coastal forests of Kenya and Tanzania and Cambodia. These results are still not fully analysed.