Europe and Central Asia
2 May 2016

One planet, hundreds of threatened habitats

The Kresna Gorge in Bulgaria was saved from destruction due to infrastrucure development. Photo: Costas Tavernarakis/Flickr
By Zoltan Waliczky and Ivan Ramirez

Today, 422 IBAs (Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas) in more than 100 countries around the world are in danger of destruction and in urgent need of conservation action.

This is the message delivered by BirdLife’s 2016 update to the IBAs in Danger (IBAiD) list, compiled from data provided by BirdLife Partners and local conservation groups. The largest proportion of these endangered sites (154), which include wetlands, grasslands and forests, are in Europe and Central Asia. Some are probably even in your neighbourhood. This means we have work to do!

What are the threats affecting these sites? Our data suggests that water management and fires, unsustainable hunting, logging, human intrusion and disturbance, agriculture, and infrastructure development are the biggest dangers affecting the species that live in our IBAs.

Sites like Lake Koybagar in Kazakhstán, Doñana in Spain (despite national and international protected area designations), Amvrakikos Gulf in Greece and the Wadden Sea in the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark have long been on the list of threatened IBAs. Other sites face “zombie” threats: dangers that rise from the dead after years of staying dormant – such as the plan to construct a motorway through the Kresna Gorge in Bulgaria that was successfully defeated more than 10 years ago, or the planned logging by the Polish government in Europe’s last remaining primeval forest at Bialowieza.

BirdLife Partners in Europe and Central Asia are already working on almost 100 IBAiDs, and are expecting to scale up this work in the coming years. We are combining our science-based data with action on the ground, leading not only to conservation actions, but also casework at either the national or international level. All of these actions would not be possible without the support of our national Partners and the volunteer work of Local Conservation Groups that know how best the threats to these sites and how to save them from oblivion.

BirdLife’s methods have seen successes against imminent threats, most recently in the European Court of Justice’s decision to condemn Bulgaria for not protecting Kaliakra, an IBA on the Black Sea coast that is an important habitat for wintering Red-breasted Goose (Branta ruficollis).

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Almost 60% of the IBAiDs in Europe and Central Asia are protected, but many of these sites are still threatened by land use and development pressures. Key EU legislation, such as the Birds Directive, plays a fundamental role here: both EU court rulings and citizens have repeatedly stressed the need for better implementation of nature laws. In non-EU countries, internationally recognized networks of sites, such as EMERALD or RAMSAR, are critical to protecting our IBAs.

Just like us, wildlife also has only one planet to call home. And as we just saw, many are in danger of losing their homes. We need as much help as we can get, and your contribution is essential for everything from reporting or updating threats, to helping us fundraise for our ongoing projects. Every little bit counts. If you want to help, contact Ivan Ramirez or Zoltan Waliczky

Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.