The threatened Malleee Emuwren is found in the Murray Sunset National Park
The threatened Malleee Emuwren is found in the Murray Sunset National Park

Examples of IBAs in Danger include the lowland forests of the island of São Tomé—which are threatened by industrial scale plantations, hydroelectric dam building as well as illegal hunting, and the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand—a key feeding area for many globally threatened seabirds and marine mammals. Unfortunately, the ingestion of plastic debris is estimated to be higher at this site than any other worldwide.

The new report, “Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas: a global network for conserving nature and benefiting people” is being launched at the IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia—include details aspects of the work of the IBA program over the last four decades. IBAs have proven extremely influential, by helping to target conservation efforts at priority sites, by stimulating the designation of formal protected areas for many sites and by inspiring similar approaches for other taxa (group of organisms).

“BirdLife’s four decades of work on this is excellent analysis for underpinning species protection. The 12,000 IBAs are the largest global network of key sites for protecting birds, other animals and plants.” This was a statement by Gregory Andrews, Australia’s Threatened Species commissioner.

IBAs in Danger overlap with no fewer than 56 Wetlands of International Importance. The main threats to these sites are inappropriate water management, recreation and agriculture. Yet, these areas variously provide free water treatment and flood defenses and also support the livelihoods for people living around them.

Since the IBA program’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.

Haribon Foundation is the BirdLife partner in the Philippines.