What is the conservation status of IBAs?

In many countries, the BirdLife Partnership has moved beyond IBA identification to conservation advocacy and action to protect these sites in perpetuity.  IBA monitoring is a key component of this process.

Monitoring is needed both to assess the effectiveness of conservation measures and to provide an early warning of problems. BirdLife has a standard framework that is simple, flexible and practical enough to be implemented effectively across an enormous range of sites. The framework allows national data to be compiled at the sub-regional, regional and global levels in order to fulfil the wider aims of the BirdLife Partnership.

Click here to view a list of monitoring reports produced by the BirdLife Partnership.

Our overall reason for monitoring IBAs is clear. IBAs are internationally important places for birds, and therefore, biodiversity conservation. We need to understand what is happening to them in order to adapt our interventions accordingly.

At the site level, we monitor IBAs to:
- detect and act on threats in good time;
- assess the effectiveness of conservation actions - are they really making a positive difference?

Additional site-level benefits of monitoring include:
- expanding and updating site data including, where necessary, the identification and mapping of site boundaries;
- providing a focus and framework for existing IBA-based activities, ranging from bird-watching events to systematic surveys;
- encouraging the formation of new Local Conservation Groups (LCGs) and the growth and development of existing ones.

At the national level, we monitor IBAs in order to:
- provide information on national biodiversity trends, feeding results into reporting for national and international legislation, such as for the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD);
- assess the impacts of economic and environmental policies that affect more than one IBA;
- review the IBA network.

 Additional national-level benefits include:
- providing opportunities for Partners to establish and strengthen stakeholder networks;
- raising awareness of the biological and socio-economic values of the national IBA network and the threats to them;
- increasing citizen engagement in conservation;
- delivering information that will help integrate IBA conservation into broader socio-political agendas through including biodiversity into other policy sectors;
 - providing increased opportunities for the development of approaches to IBA conservation, through improved understanding of land-use issues that deliver socio-economic benefits to local communities.

Bringing together IBA monitoring data at the regional and, global levels to create indices of biodiversity status and trends provides a meaningful way of monitoring biodiversity on a large scale.

IBAs should be managed to conserve important bird populations. Therefore we need to understand what is happening to IBAs in relation to those bird species for which the sites qualify as IBAs. We cannot monitor every relevant attribute of an IBA, so we uses a ‘Pressure - State - Response’ framework. This approach has also been adopted by the CBD.

Pressure - pressure indicators identify and track the major threats to important bird populations at IBAs. Examples include rates of agricultural expansion, over-exploitation and pollution.

State - state indicators refer to the condition of the site, with respect to its important bird populations. State indicators might be population counts of the birds themselves, or may be measures of the extent and quality of the habitat required by these birds.

Response - response indicators identify and track conservation actions: for example, changes in conservation designation, implementation of conservation projects and establishment of LCGs.

Indicators need careful selection for each site. A good indicator will actually indicate or track something – it will respond clearly to changes.  Numbers of recently cut stumps might be a good indicator of logging intensity (a Pressure variable), while mean monthly rainfall would not. An indicator should also be linked clearly to the conservation management goals for the IBA. For example, it is not useful to monitor the area of dry grassland within a site if the species for which the site is important live only in wetlands.

For full details of the monitoring process, variables and scoring system, please see:
- BirdLife International (2008) Monitoring Important Bird Areas - a global framework. Version 1.2. Cambridge. [pdf]