Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) - Pacific

lord howe island woodhen. Photo: Dave Watts
lord howe island woodhen. Photo: Dave Watts

The BirdLife Pacific Partnership is actively involved in identifying and conserving IBAs across the region. To date 776 IBAs have been identified across the region, 702 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 improves the habitat at the IBA is the next, key step.  Of the sites that have been assessed around 40% 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 agreements with the communities associated with the site – an agreement that may include an 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 has been trialled and will, hopefully become more commonplace across the region during time of this plan, Reducing the threats at 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).  We now need to work out how to deliver an effective response to these pressures – the type of response being dependent on the site, but may include any of, a long-term commitment immediate action, increased level of advocacy, both nationally and globally, or simply raising the profile of the site.