WHSRN Sites Among Important Bird Areas in Danger

Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) are places of international significance for the conservation of the world’s birds and nature. Since the 1970s, more than 12,000 IBAs have been identified worldwide, comprising the largest and most comprehensive global network of important sites for nature conservation.

BirdLife International recently identified 356 IBAs in danger of being lost, however. The list is based on data from BirdLife partners about pressures at their most threatened sites, such as urban or agricultural development, inappropriate water management, climate change, human disturbance, and pollution. In their report, entitled “IBAs in Danger,” approximately half of the sites are legally protected, underscoring the importance of improving management effectiveness of protected areas.

Six of the IBAs in the report are also WHSRN sites, with overall threat categories of “high” or “very high,” from the following pressures:

Bahía de Samborombón, Argentina: agriculture/aquaculture, human disturbance.
Laguna Mar Chiquita, Argentina: human disturbance, water management.
Fraser River Estuary, Canada: residential & commercial development, pollution, transport & service corridors.
Upper Bay of Panama, Panama: water management, residential & commercial development, pollution, climate change.
Bahía de Asunción, Paraguay: human disturbance, pollution.
Salton Sea, USA (California): agriculture/aquaculture, human disturbance, pollution, climate change.

To date, through participatory Site Assessment Tool (SAT) workshops, the WHSRN Executive Office has helped partners to better understand the overall health of their site for shorebirds and prioritize threats and conservation actions needed at four of these six sites. Completing the SAT at the remaining two sites (Bahía Samborombón and Salton Sea) will be a high priority.

Only one IBA in the Western Hemisphere was among the several case studies highlighted in the report: the Upper Bay of Panama. The repeated conservation challenges that this federally protected WHSRN Site of Hemispheric Importance has experienced, and thwarted, over the years have been dire (see WHSRNews February 2014 and June 2014). As the case study points out, the Upper Bay of Panama IBA hosts up to 2 million migratory shorebirds each year. Attempts to weaken the protected area were successfully defeated by Panama Audubon Society (BirdLife partner in Panama) and its partners. The challenge now is to develop a sustainable land-use plan for the protected area and improve its management.

“We must work together collectively to mitigate threats, and to strengthen the implementation of national and local laws and policies to ensure that environmental safeguards are implemented in the early stages of development,” said Melanie Heath, BirdLife International’s Director for Science, Policy, and Information. She added that the ‘IBAs in Danger’ report provides governments, development agencies, international environmental organizations, businesses, and society with a meaningful approach towards preventing further damage or loss to IBAs.


This article is based on one posted by Martin Fowlie for BirdLife International, November 2014 and also appeared in the WHSRNews: 22 December 2014.