Marine IBA e-Atlas Methods

The identification of marine IBAs has necessitated a significant amount of effort to source, collate and analyse bird distribution data in order to be able to locate sites and develop site boundaries in often apparently featureless seascapes. The programme has therefore had to create new databases and analytical techniques to assist with this process.

One database includes all published information on the foraging distances, preferences and behaviours of (primarily coastal) seabirds while breeding. These data are housed in the BirdLife Seabird Foraging Range Database and have been used to help define the likely boundaries of key foraging and rafting area adjacent to seabird breeding colonies, which can be included as marine IBAs.

A second database comprises extensive data on distributions of seabirds at sea (primarily on the procellariform group – albatrosses and petrels), collected from tracking devices deployed by research scientists. These data are housed in the BirdLife Tracking Ocean Wanderers Database which has proved to be a vital resource for the identification of marine IBAs relating to non-breeding congregations, migratory bottlenecks and at-sea areas for pelagic species.

The development of novel techniques for the analysis of data, particularly those from tracking devices, has involved input from a wide range of seabird experts.  A number of technical workshops were held to advance these methodologies. These have included:

  • Chize, France - 29 June-3 July 2009 - Using seabird satellite tracking data to identify marine IBAs: a workshop to determine how to achieve this goal.
  • Coimbra, Portugal - 21-23 Sept 2011 - Habitat modelling using satellite tracking data: a workshop to advance this process.
  • Santander, Spain - 8-9 March 2012 - Coastal censuses and their application in marine IBA identification.
  • Lisbon, Portugal - 5-7 March 2008 & 15-18 April 2008 - and Barcelona, Spain - 4-7 Nov 2008 – National workshops to review various seabird distribution datasets and determine how to combine them for marine IBA identification.

In addition, BirdLife in collaboration with many members of the wider seabird community have contributed a linked series of papers to a special issue of Biological Conservation (Vol .156), which has provided examples of projects that have informed MPA design and designation from a seabird perspective. Many of the techniques explained in this special issue have been applied during marine IBA identification.

The data and methods used in the identification of marine IBAs are summarised in a marine IBA toolkit.

Black-bellied Storm-petrel. South-east Australia. © Ben Lascelles