The main causal factor in biodiversity loss is habitat destruction and degradation, a process that now extends to numerous ecosystems worldwide. However when resources are limited, conservation efforts must focus on the priority sites or “hotspots” with the greatest biological wealth, even though it is not always easy to determine which they are. BirdLife International took up this challenge in 1995 when it launched its Important Bird Areas program throughout the Americas.
The goal was to identify, catalogue, monitor and conserve a network of birdlife biodiversity conservation hotspots by applying clearly formulated and internationally standardized scientific criteria. This endeavor concluded in 2009 with the identification of 2,345 key sites in Central and South America, the region with the world’s richest avian biodiversity.
More than 3,000 individuals were involved in setting up the Americas IBA network, alongside dozens of organizations and associations of a diverse nature. Among the numerous testaments to their work is a landmark publication for the conservation of birdlife and biodiversity: Important Bird Areas Americas. Priority Sites for Biodiversity Conservation. This is supplemented by a regional directory covering 57 countries, an essential tool for prioritizing campaign initiatives at both national and continental level.
The BirdLife partnership network, meantime, has switched its focus to IBA conservation, in order to ensure their sustainable use and management.