Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) - Pacific
The BirdLife Pacific Partnership is all actively involved in identifying and conserving IBAs across the region.
The work started with a four year EC project entitled ‘Sustainable management of sites globally important for biodiversity in the Pacific’. The project was implemented by Société Calédonienne d’Ornithologie (SCO) in New Caledonia, Société d'Ornithologie de Polynésie (SOP Manu) in French Polynesia, Palau Conservation Society (PCS) in Palau and by the BirdLife International Country Programme in Fiji (now merged with NatureFiji-MareqetiViti).
Together they undertook extensive field research in these four countries and national IBA inventories have been published (or are being published) in all four countries. In addition, experts have undertaken desk-based studies and compiled IBA inventories for a further 13 Pacific Island Countries or Territories (PICTs): the Commonwealth of the North Mariana Islands, Guam, Kiribati, Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Wallis and Futuna, Tonga, Niue, Nauru, Tuvalu and a review of the Pitcairn Island group was undertaken by the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK).
Recent years have seen considerable investment in the identification and gazetting of Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas in the Pacific region. To date all countries, with the exception of Papua New Guinea and New Zealand have now undertaken an assessment for their terrestrial IBAs, and all countries, including New Zealand, are well advanced in the development of the Seabird/Marine component of IBAs.
BirdLife partners within the region undertook extensive field research and have published or made available data on national IBA inventories. While the Pitcairn Island group was reviewed by the RSPB (BirdLife partner in the UK) as part of their assessment of IBAs in UK Overseas Dependent Territories.
For the remaining Pacific Island Countries or Territories (PICTs) potential IBAs were proposed based on a desk-based review of all published information on bird numbers in each of the countries. Some of the data used to identify IBAs through this process is rather old, and there is an urgent need to revisit some of the sites and re-assess bird populations.
To date, August 2013, 632 IBAs have been identified across the region, 373 of which have been confirmed by partners and/or other institutions in the relevant country. An immediate task over the next few months is to confirm the remaining IBAs and to incorporate the New Zealand Seabird IBAs into the global database. In the medium term priorities include an assessment of terrestrial IBAs in New Zealand, a review of IBAs in Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, and identification of IBAs across Papua, New Guinea.
Site identification is just the first phase of the IBA programme. Site management, that either protects or, preferably, improves the habitat at the IBA is the next, key step. Of the sites that have been assessed around 40% (184 out of 463) have some form of protection (based on IUCN criteria) across at least half of the site. For many Pacific Island sites this type of formal protection is not, currently, the most effective means of conservation and several IBAs in the region now have some form of agreement with the communities most associated with the site – an agreement that often includes some assessment of alternative livelihoods for the communities. The concept of Ecosystem Services to assess the value of sites is not new in the region, but a more formal approach to comparing alternative land-use options is being trialled and will, hopefully become more commonplace across the region during time of this plan, Improving the conservation status of IBAs, and monitoring the impact of this is the key challenge for the majority of sites over the next few years.
14 sites across the region have been listed as IBAs in Danger. These are sites where the pressure (or threat) to the site is considered as High or Very High and where there needs to be a rapid response for the site to continue to qualify as an IBA. Many of the sites in the Pacific Islands also qualify as AZE (Alliance for Zero Extinction Sites). The next steps are for there to be a co-ordinated action to deliver an effective response to these pressures – the type of response being dependent on the site, but may include either or both long-term commitment and immediate action, increased level of advocacy, both nationally and globally, or simply raising the profile of the site.