Broad-scale conservation is needed alongside site-scale approaches to conserve threatened birds

Amazon River, Brazil, © Earth Sciences & Images Analysis Laboratory, NASA, Johnson Space Center

Conservation at a broad-scale is essential to prevent and reverse declines in relatively abundant and wide-ranging species, but it is important for globally threatened birds, too. While most threatened birds need interventions at particular sites to ensure their survival, a significant minority—around one in five—also require broader scale action. For a small number of highly dispersed threatened species, broad-scale action is the single highest priority.

Proportion of globally threatened bird species requiring different scales of conservation action
Boyd et al. (2008)

Are threatened species best conserved through action focused at the site scale, or at the landscape or seascape scale? Some species are effectively restricted entirely to individual sites, while others are threatened by pressures that can only be tackled through broad-scale policy actions. A recent analysis by Boyd et al. (2008) examined the relative importance of these different approaches. The authors assigned all threatened bird species to one of four categories that best described the highest-priority, short- to medium-term conservation strategy they required. A total of 23% were best conserved at single IBAs, 56% at a network of IBAs, 18% at IBAs in conjunction with action at a broader scale, <1% required broad-scale action alone as their highest priority, and 3% were insufficiently known to determine the appropriate approach.

Hence IBA conservation is a key component of the action needed for 99% of threatened birds, and the highest priority alone for 79%. However, all site-based approaches also have to consider issues in the surrounding areas in the longer term. For some 18% of threatened birds, the need is more urgent: local efforts need to be reinforced with broader-scale action in the short term. Seabirds killed by long-line fishing (e.g. albatrosses), waterbirds affected by hydrological processes across a landscape (e.g. Brazilian Merganser Mergus octosetaceus), and species occurring at low population densities and impacted by hunting (e.g. Blue-throated Macaw Ara glaucogularis) are just three examples. Only a small proportion of threatened species require action primarily at the landscape scale. Examples include Indian Vulture Gyps indicus which is threatened as a result of poisoning by the veterinary drug diclofenac: action is needed at the sub-national and national scale to ensure stocks of the drug are replaced with safe alternatives throughout the species’ range.

Related Species


Boyd, C., Brooks, T. M., Butchart, S. H. M., da Fonseca, G. A. B., Hawkins, A. F. A., Hoffmann, M., Sechrest, W. W., Stuart, S. N., van Dijk, P. P. and Edgar, G. J. (2008) Appropriate scales for threatened species conservation. Conserv. Letters.1: 37–43.

Compiled: 2008   

Recommended Citation:
BirdLife International (2008) Broad-scale conservation is needed alongside site-scale approaches to conserve threatened birds. Downloaded from on 05/12/2023