When planning new operations, companies and development agencies have a clear need for accurate biodiversity information. Poorly-informed decisions can often prove both financially and environmentally costly. Unfortunately, relevant data is often difficult to obtain. The Integrated Biodiversity Assessment Tool (IBAT), a web-based resource, improves development decisions, benefiting both business and the environment.
Whether planning new operations, sourcing raw materials, assessing risk or monitoring environmental performance, companies, development banks and governments have a clear need for accurate information on biodiversity. In particular, they require site-scale information that can inform the earliest stages of planning, when it is still relatively easy and inexpensive to make changes. At present, much of this information is difficult to access and interpret. It is frequently scattered across a disparate array of websites or buried within the scientific literature.
The Integrated Biodiversity Assessment Tool (IBAT), developed by the IBAT Alliance, is an attempt to address this problem. It provides up-to-date biodiversity information to decision-makers from the private and public sectors through a single, reliable web-resource. IBAT provides companies and government agencies with globally compiled spatial and tabular data drawn from established sources on protected areas (World Database on Protected Areas), sites of global conservation importance (Key Biodiversity Areas, including Important Bird Areas and Alliance for Zero Extinction sites) and globally threatened species (the IUCN Red List).
The IBAT initiative has grown significantly since its inception in 2005. Initially a partnership between Conservation International (CI) and the United Nations Environment Programme’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC), the IBAT alliance has expanded to include BirdLife International and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
IBAT comprises a ‘family’ of web-based tools, each specially tailored for decision-making in different sectors, ranging from conservation science to corporate business. IBAT for Business, the first of these tools to be developed, was launched in October 2008 at the IUCN World Conservation Congress. It provides companies with the means to identify potential biodiversity conflicts during the early stages of a project’s development. For example, firms planning the construction of a bridge, the route of a new pipeline or looking for a source of raw materials can quickly establish if a region or site is environmentally sensitive and consequently best avoided. By being able to access this information at the beginning of the decision making process, companies could save considerable time and money. The information available through IBAT is also useful to corporations wishing to better understand their ecological impact. Increasingly, companies are committed to maintaining environmental standards and reporting publicly on their biodiversity performance. As a subscription service, it is envisaged that IBAT for Business will help generate the resources necessary to ensure that the underlying datasets are continually updated and quality-checked. This will guarantee that users from all sectors continue to have access to accurate, current and reliable information.
During 2009, two additional versions of IBAT were designed and implemented – one for the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the other for the International Finance Corporation (IFC). These bespoke versions, collectively known as IBAT for Development Finance, allow financial institutions to integrate IBAT within their in-house decision support systems. As with IBAT for Business these tools are designed to ensure that information on ecologically sensitive areas are at the heart of the decision making process. IBAT for Research and Conservation Planning, a free-for-use (publically available) version for the academic and research community, has also been developed. It offers a range of functions, interpretation and outputs, but access will be restricted to non-commercial use.
IBAT represents an unprecedented step towards conservation data sharing and integration that will lead to better development decisions, benefiting both industry and biodiversity.
BirdLife International (2011) BirdLife has developed a decision-support tool (IBAT) for business, government and conservation. Presented as part of the BirdLife State of the world's birds website. Available from: . Checked: