The function of the BirdLife Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) Programme
is to identify, protect and manage a network of sites that are significant 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 are all 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, to date, over 10,000 sites have been identified world-wide, using standard, internationally recognized 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 the loss of any one of these sites may be disproportionately large.
The IBA 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 organizations and to promote the implementation of global agreements and regional measures.
Important Birds and Biodiversity Areas are:
- Places of international significance for the conservation of birds and other biodiversity.
- Recognised world-wide as practical tools for conservation
- Distinct areas amenable to practical conservation action
- Identified using standardised, agreed criteria
- Sites that together form part of a wider, integrated approach to the conservation and sustainable use of the natural environment