A New Tool to Help Prevent Species Extinctions

10/8/2008

Guidelines for Identifying Priority Conservation Sites

Barcelona, Spain � With more than 16,000 plants and animals facing imminent extinctions, a key tool to help prevent the irreversible loss of these species will be the focus of discussion at the IUCN World Conservation Congress.

�Identification and Gap Analysis of Key Biodiversity Areas� is being released as part of the IUCN Best Practices Protected Area Guidelines, with a special afternoon presentation on 8 October at the World Conservation Congress Species Pavilion at the Barcelona International Convention Center followed by a formal launch of the Guidelines that evening in the Conservation Cinema.

The afternoon event will feature conservation leaders from Brazil, Kenya, and Madagascar who will speak about using the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and the Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) approach to identify sites that need immediate protection to prevent species extinctions. During the evening event, additional conservation leaders from Colombia and Turkey, as well as the Global Environment Facility, will provide examples of how the Guidelines have been put into practice and how they can help to achieve national biodiversity conservation goals.

�The world is losing biodiversity at an unprecedented rate. With habitat loss the biggest threat by far to most species, we need to know where to focus site scale conservation actions to avoid the potential extinctions of these species,� said Matt Foster, Director of Conservation Outcomes with Conservation International�s Center for Applied Biodiversity Science (CABS) and one of the authors of the guidelines.

�Identification and Gap Analysis of Key Biodiversity Areas� provides a justifiable, transparent and repeatable process for identifying those sites that we must most urgent conserve. As part of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), 190 countries agreed to establish comprehensive national and regional protected areas systems to help prevent species extinctions. The KBA guidelines provide an efficient tool to identify priority sites for expanding protected areas to achieve the CBD targets, and more broadly, to prevent species extinctions.

Currently, KBAs have been identified in most countries around the world, especially through the efforts of the BirdLife International Partnership in identifying Important Bird Areas (IBAs) (the bird subset of KBAs), as well as Plantlife International, IUCN�s Freshwater Programme and others. The Alliance for Zero Extinction, an initiative of more than 60 national and international conservation organizations, has identified nearly 600 sites known to harbor the last remaining populations of one or more highly threatened species; these form the highest priority subset of KBAs. �Failure to protect sites that are critical for the survival of endangered species would be a failure to fulfill a commitment made under the Convention on Biological Diversity, and in particular the 2010 biodiversity target. KBAs and AZE sites are the best available tool for countries to advance species and site conservation to accomplish this target, and urgent action is needed to secure these unique places and their species. The benefits also go far beyond species conservation. The global climate crisis, watershed loss, and rural poverty can all be addressed by the protection of key natural ecosystems such as those represented by such sites.� Said Michael J. Parr of American Bird conservancy and Chairman of the Alliance for Zero Extinction.

While KBAs are invaluable in national conservation planning, identification and conservation of the KBA network will have much broader social benefits. For local communities, KBAs provide livelihood opportunities through employment, recognition, economic investment and civic pride. �KBA designation can often bring previously overlooked sites on to the conservation agenda � with very positive consequences both for biodiversity and people,� said Leon Bennun, Director of Science, Policy and Information at BirdLife International. �Our Important Bird Areas programme has shown the power of using global criteria and standards in a locally-grounded and nationally-led process.�

Published jointly by the IUCN, the World Commission on Protected Areas, James Cook University and Rainforest CRC, the guidelines are directed toward technical staff in governments, nongovernmental groups, academia and local communities charged with implementing commitments on protected areas.

The entire text of �Identification and Gap Analysis of Key Biodiversity Areas� is available online at: http://www.iucn.org/dbtw-wpd/edoc/PAG-015.pdf. Copies are also available for purchase at http://www.earthprint.com/product.aspx?id=14301.

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For more information, contact:

Lisa Bowen
Conservation International
Phone in Barcelona: +34-638078830
Office Phone: 1 (202) 746-7452
E-mail: lbowen@conservation.org

Tom Cohen
Conservation International
Phone in Barcelona: +34-636834066
Office Phone: 1 (202) 257-9954
E-mail: tcohen@conservation.org

For Latin America:
Maria C. Hoyos
Conservation International
Phone in Barcelona: +34-636 652 626
E-mail: mchoyos@conservation.org

Conservation International believes that the Earth's natural heritage must be maintained if future generations are to thrive spiritually, culturally, and economically. Our mission is to conserve the Earth's living heritage � our global biodiversity � and to demonstrate that human societies are able to live harmoniously with nature. For more information, visit www.conservation.org

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