Europe and Central Asia
22 Nov 2014

122 important sites for nature threatened with destruction in Europe

Conillera, by J.M. Arcos
By BirdLife Europe

More than 350 of the planet’s most important sites for nature are threatened with being lost forever according to a new report by BirdLife International.

Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) are places of international significance for the conservation of the world’s birds and other nature, with over twelve thousand identified worldwide. 356 IBAs in 102 countries have been identified as in imminent danger of being lost in a new report by BirdLife scientists. About half of these are legally protected, which highlights the importance of improving the management effectiveness of protected areas.

The ‘IBAs in Danger’ list provides an essential focus for governments, development agencies, the  international environmental and  conservation conventions, business and wider civil society to act to prevent the further damage or loss of these sites of international significance”, said Melanie Heath, BirdLife’s Director of Science, Policy and Information. “Collectively we must work together to mitigate their threats, strengthen the implementation of national and local laws and policies ensuring environmental safeguards are implemented at the earliest stages of development, as well as enhancing  the management of these sites”.

The new report - Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas: a global network for conserving nature and benefiting people – highlights the many threats to IBAs (sites identified by BirdLife for their nature importance) and demonstrate how the IBA network crucially helped conservation efforts by targeting priority sites and by stimulating the designation of formal protected areas for many sites.

‘IBAs in Danger’ overlap with no fewer than 56 Wetlands of International Importance. These areas variously provide free water treatment and flood defences and also support the livelihoods for people living around them.

There are 122 IBAs in Danger in Europe and most are in urgent need of protection and management. The most frequent threat affecting these sites is agriculture & aquaculture non-sustainable practices, followed by energy production & mining, pollution and invasive species. Sa Conillera in Spain, Kaliakra in Bulgaria or the Wadden Sea (Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands) are some of the most threatened IBA in Danger in the EU.

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Sa Conillera e Islotes de Bledes y Espartar, is one of the last remaining virgin islets in the Balearic archipelago holding an important colony of the Critically Endangered Balearic Shearwater. The IBA is protected under national and European Union legislation. There is a proposal to turn the local lighthouse into a hotel, which would have serious impact on the colony. SEO/BirdLife (BirdLife in Spain) is lobbying the authorities to drop this controversial project and continue with low-impact education and research activities.

Kaliakra IBA is located at the northern Bulgarian Black Sea Coast and is vital for the endangered Red-breasted Goose and many other species. This IBA is currently threatened by mining activities and  energy infrastructure developments which would have permanent and irreversible impacts on its wildlife.

The Wadden Sea, a vast coastal IBA that extends from Denmark to the Netherlands, is among the largest coastal wetlands in the world. It is the most important site for waterbirds in Europe and a crucial stopover site for migratory shorebirds in the East Atlantic Flyway. An estimated 12 million birds rely on this area to survive, and this was one of the main reasons to have the Wadden Sea declared as a World Heritage Site in 2009. BirdLife Partners DOF, NABU and VBN currently work together to protect and promote the area, threatened by pollution, shipping and recreational activities.

Iván Ramírez, Head of Conservation at BirdLife Europe stated: “IBAs are the backbone of our work in BirdLife. The IBA in Danger list is a call to protect the most endangered sites in the World.  Each one of these 122 areas in Europe need our attention, investment and adequate management. Only by protecting these sites we will ensure not only the survival of many endangered species, but also our legacy for future generations."

Since the IBA programme’s inception in the late 1970s, BirdLife International, through its 120 National Partners, has applied this influential approach to site conservation in virtually all of the world’s countries and territories, both on land and at sea. As such, in addition to the programme’s significant direct contribution to bird and wider biodiversity conservation, many hundreds of protected areas have been designated as a direct consequence of their recognition as IBAs. IBAs have also had considerable and, indeed, increasing relevance in developing responses to a number of wider environmental issues, such as habitat loss, ecosystem degradation, sustainable resource use and climate change. 

   Read the report

Explore the interactive map

Read our Spotlight on IBAs

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