Using IBAs in planning the protection of the oceans

Delegates at the Southern Indian Ocean EBSA workshop in Mauritius (© GOBI)

Marine species and habitats still receive very low levels of conservation effort and effective protection in comparison to the terrestrial environment. Management of biodiversity values within the high seas have received the least attention, largely due to the lack of structures and globally recognized mechanisms through which to work. To advance this process, the Convention on Biological Diversity has been compiling scientific data to describe a list of priority sites in need of attention. BirdLife has been making a major contribution to this effort, by providing information on Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas.

SOURCE BirdLife International Marine e-Atlas

In 2008, the ninth Conference of the Parties (COP9) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) approved a set of seven scientific criteria for identifying “Ecologically or Biologically Significant marine Areas (EBSAs) in need of protection in open ocean waters and deep-sea habitats” (CBD Decision IX/20, Annex I). At COP10 (2010), Parties also decided that the CBD Secretariat should coordinate and convene expert workshops to contribute to the description of EBSAs and establish a repository mechanism for scientific and technical information and experience related to the application of the scientific criteria on the identification of such areas. These workshops began in 2011 and, to-date, regional workshops have been held for the North East Atlantic, the South Pacific, the Wider Caribbean and Central Mid-Atlantic, the Southern Indian Ocean, the Eastern Tropical and Temperate Pacific, the North Pacific and the South-eastern Atlantic. As a result, over 200 EBSAs have been described.

BirdLife has been a key stakeholder in providing scientific information to guide the description of EBSAs, having participated in all the regional workshops convened by the CBD so far. BirdLife has provided lists of relevant marine Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) to the workshops and, through this ground-breaking work, has coordinated the compilation, analysis and submission of bird distribution data for consideration within the EBSA process (BirdLife 2010).

Seabirds are the best studied group of any marine taxa, and the IBA approaches developed have allowed consistent, comparable and easily understood data to be used in the EBSA process. This has set a benchmark for other taxa groups to follow. In addition there is considerable overlap and congruence between the criteria used to identify marine IBAs and those adopted by the CBD to identify EBSAs (BirdLife 2009). This is particularly so for criteria relating to vulnerability and irreplaceability. Marine IBAs have therefore proved to be strong candidates for the identification of, or inclusion within, EBSAs. Specifically, quantitative data (especially from remote-tracking studies) on seabird distributions at sea have made important contributions to identifying irreplaceable sites that take account of annual life cycles, life history stages, and migration routes (Lascelles et al. 2012). To date over 500 IBAs for seabirds have been incorporated into the EBSAs described, with several EBSAs based solely on seabird data.

Further analysis of seabird tracking and distribution data is still needed to define additional marine IBAs in both Exclusive Economic Zones and international waters, and will continue to be of key importance in also defining EBSAs in both areas.

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Lascelles, B. G., Langham, G. M., Ronconi, R. A. and Reid, J. B. (2012) From hotspots to site protection: Identifying Marine Protected Areas for seabirds around the globe. Biological Conservation 156: 5–14.

Compiled: 2013    Copyright: 2013   

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BirdLife International (2013) Using IBAs in planning the protection of the oceans. Downloaded from on 28/09/2023