Expanding Human Activities Threaten Important Sites for Nature
17 November 2014 – According to a new BirdLife International report, more than 350 of the planet’s most important sites for nature are at high risk of losing their natural habitat and biodiversity value.
Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) are places of international significance for the conservation of the world’s birds and other nature. There are more than 12,000 IBAs worldwide, and nearly 600 have been identified in Canada. BirdLife International partners Birds Canada and Nature Canada have provided national leadership for Canada’s IBA Program since its 1996 launch, and collaborate with partners throughout the country and beyond our borders to monitor and conserve Canada’s bird species, and the special places they call home.
The new report Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas: A global network for conserving nature and benefiting people was launched at the IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia on November 15. In addition to providing an overview of the IBA program, its importance, and its achievements, the report recommends action to prevent further damage or loss at 356 ‘IBAs in Danger.’ These sites suffer from inadequate protection or management and are under high pressure from a range of threats that include unsustainable agriculture and human disturbance.
The ‘IBAs in Danger’ can be found in 122 countries and territories, and are considered to be in imminent danger of being lost, even though about half of them are legally protected. For example, a 2012 suspension of protection for the Bay of Panama wetlands – one of the most important sites for migratory waterbirds in the Americas – potentially opened the door to major residential, recreational, and industrial development. Birds Canada is proud to have supported the Panama Audubon Society’s successful efforts to reinstate protection for the site. However, this IBA continues to face pressures from a wide range of threats, and the challenge now is to develop a sustainable land-use plan and improve the management of the protected area.
‘IBAs in Danger’ overlap with 56 Wetlands of International Importance. These areas provide free water treatment and flood defences, and support local human livelihoods, but face threats from inappropriate water management, recreation, and agriculture.
British Columbia’s Boundary Bay – Roberts Bank – Sturgeon Bank IBA is one of Canada’s richest and most important ecosystems for migrant and wintering waterbirds. Habitat degradation, fragmentation, and loss pose the most major and immediate threat to this IBA’s ecological integrity.
Western Sandpipers Photo: Catherine Jardine
A combination of pressures from residential, commercial, and industrial development, related transportation and infrastructure developments, pollution, and widespread recreational disturbance led to this site’s inclusion on the ‘IBAs in Danger’ list.
“We are passionately committed to mitigating threats and enhancing protection for Canada’s – and the world’s – most important areas for birds,” said Birds Canada President Steven Price. “It is essential for us to continue our close collaboration with government, industry, and local conservation groups who steward IBAs, to ensure that our birds survive and thrive.”
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Notes for Editors
1. Birds Canada is Canada’s leading national charity dedicated to bird science and conservation. BSC’s mission is to conserve wild birds of Canada through sound science, on-the-ground actions, innovative partnerships, public engagement, and science-based advocacy.
2. Birds Canada and Nature Canada are Canadian co-partners in BirdLife International. Together we deliver Canada’s IBA Program, which aims to identify, monitor, and conserve the largest and most comprehensive global network of critical sites for nature conservation.
3. BirdLife International is the world’s largest nature conservation partnership, with 120 partner organizations worldwide, almost 11 million supporters, 7000 local conservation groups, and 7400 staff.
4. The extremely influential global IBA program directly contributes to bird and biodiversity conservation, helps target conservation effort at priority sites, and stimulates the designation of formal protected areas for many sites.
5. Please visit the BirdLife International website to read the new IBA report in full and the IBAs in Danger brochure.