BirdLife Europe has been very successful at ensuring that IBAs in the EU are recognised as a ‘blueprint’ for the designation of Special Protection Areas (SPAs) under the Birds Directive, forming part of the Natura 2000 network.
Important Bird Areas are priority sites for bird conservation because they regularly hold significant populations of one or more globally or regionally threatened, endemic or congregatory bird species, or highly representative bird assemblages. IBAs are more than just a collection of sites – they form a network, whose effective conservation should ensure that migratory species can find suitable breeding, stop-over and wintering places along their respective flyways.
The European IBA Programme
The European IBA Programme is the longest running of BirdLife’s regional IBA programmes. It aims to ensure that the conservation value of IBAs in Europe (now numbering more than 4,000 sites) is maintained, and where possible enhanced. This is achieved through maintaining an up-to-date inventory of IBAs, monitoring their status using a standardised global framework, carrying out conservation actions on the ground, and advocating policy changes at local, national and international levels. Now that the terrestrial IBA network in Europe is virtually complete, attention has switched in recent years to the challenging task of identifying sites at sea.
This work involves more than 2,000 local volunteers, who form national BirdLife IBA caretaker networks in more than 40 European and Central Asian countries. IBA conservation also involves close collaboration with other key stakeholders, including land owners and users, local communities, governmental and non-governmental organisations, businesses and international bodies.
IBA inventories have been published since 1981. The first European IBA inventory was published in 1989, covering 2,444 sites in 39 countries. A second European IBA inventory was published in 2000, covering 3,619 sites in 51 countries and autonomous regions. In addition to these regional publications, a number of national inventories, in the appropriate national languages, have been prepared and published by BirdLife Partners, with support from the BirdLife Secretariat.