The IBA Programme of BirdLife International.

·         The function of the Important Bird Area (IBA) Programme is to identify, protect and manage a network of sites that are important for the long-term viability of naturally occurring bird populations, across the geographical range of those bird species for which a site-based approach is appropriate.

·         The continued ecological integrity of these sites will be decisive in maintaining and conserving such birds.  Legal protection, management and monitoring of these crucial sites will all be important targets for action, and many (but not all) bird species may be effectively conserved by these means.  Patterns of bird distribution are such that, in most cases, it is possible to select sites that support many species.

·         The IBA Programme is global in scale, and it is anticipated that up to 20,000 IBAs will be identified world-wide, using standard, internationally-recognised criteria for selection.

·         The sites are identified on the basis of the bird numbers and species’ complements that they hold, and are selected such that, taken together, they form a network throughout the species biogeographic distributions.

·         This network may be considered as a minimum essential to ensure the survival of these species across their ranges, should there occur a net loss of remaining habitat elsewhere through human, or other, modification.  Therefore, the consequences of loss of any one of these sites may be disproportionately large.

·         The programme aims to guide the implementation of national conservation strategies, through the promotion and development of national protected-area programmes.  It is also intended to assist the conservation activities of international organisations, and to promote the implementation of global agreements and regional measures.

Relationship between Important Bird Areas and Endemic Bird Areas.

Endemic Bird Areas (EBAs) were intended to identify global-scale priorities for conservation, and have been highly effective at directing conservation resources at a global scale (Brooks et al 2006).  An EBA is an area where two or more restricted-range bird species overlap, and where at least one of the species is restricted to the area.  A restricted-range terrestrial bird species is defined as a species whose historical breeding range is 50,000km2 or less (Stattersfield et al 1998).  This definition incorporates approximately 27% of all bird species (75% of which are threatened) Langhammer et al 2007).  218 EBAs have been identified globally.   However, EBAs do not allow for the identification of site-scale   conservation targets, furthermore some sites that are globally important for bird conservation will inevitably fall outside these broad priority regions.  IBAs help to identify important sites, not just within broad regions of global priority, but in all countries worldwide.  IBAs can therefore provide the fundamental basis of national and regional-scale site conservation programmes. 

Relationship between Important Bird Areas and Key Biodiversity Areas.

The criteria used to identify IBAs are almost identical to those used to identify KBAs.  As such IBAs are the avian subset of KBAs.  As IBA coverage tends to be more comprehensive than many other groups of species IBAs are often used as one of the first sets of data.  Clearly, while  all IBAs can be considered to be KBAs – it does not follow that all KBAs are necessarily IBA.  Some KBAs will be defined based on Critically Endangered plant, bat, invertebrate or coral reef communities.