Important Bird Areas are sites that are important to the survival of bird species. The identification of Important Bird Areas and the conservation of these sites was initiated by BirdLife International in the mid-1980’s in Europe. BirdLife International is a global Partnership of conservation organizations that strives to conserve birds, their habitats and global biodiversity, working with people towards sustainability in the use of natural resources. The National Audubon Society is the BirdLife Partner in the U.S. with its mission to conserve and restore natural ecosystems for the benefit of humanity and biological diversity being very similar to the mission of BirdLife and that of its partners.
Over the last twenty years more than 4,000 Important Bird Areas have been identified throughout Europe. Since the program’s initiation the identification and conservation of IBAs has expanded to all continents with initial inventories completed in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Inventories are in the process of being completed in the Americas, Antarctica, and Australia. As of March 2006, over 8,000 Global IBAs have been identified in 178 countries by BirdLife International partners.
As the U.S. Partner for BirdLife International, Audubon has the responsibility for identifying and working to conserve a network of Important Bird Areas throughout the U.S. In the U.S., this network of sites is comprised of state-level IBAs that are prioritized as continentally or globally significant. This identification and prioritization process focuses the IBA program on achieving the greatest conservation results at the sites most in need of conservation attention.
Audubon has identified approximately 2,000 state-level Important Bird Areas covering more than 200 million acres of habitat in 41 states. The identification process is underway or beginning in 48 states leaving only Kansas and Rhode Island to initiate an IBA Program.
Identifying IBAs is only the first step in the site conservation process. Beyond the identification of sites the IBA program is focused on the assessment of those sites in order to track increases and decreases in bird populations, track changes in the quality and extent of the habitats, as well as understand the most significant threats to Important Bird Areas. With an understanding of these IBA characteristics, IBA activities are focused on engaging local communities in the conservation of these sites. Through the adoption of Important Bird Areas the IBA program is working to ensure that each site has an individual or group of individuals willing to watch out for the sites protection and as needed to engage in conservation actions to improve the IBA.
To learn more about Important Bird Areas visit - http://www.audubon.org/bird/iba/index.html