Do you want to discover the world’s best wildlife habitats? This website has it all

There are many different ideas about what is considered an important place for nature. Should we focus on globally threatened species on the IUCN Red List? Should we be concerned about species with small ranges that are more prone to extinction due to habitat loss? Should we instead focus on pristine wilderness or threatened ecosystems? What about places where hundreds or even millions of animals come together to breed or eat, often creating an incredible spectacle? Or the most irreplaceable and unique places?

These are all important goals for conservation, but were not considered collectively until recently. That all changed in 2016 when the global conservation community came together and agreed on a common approach to identifying key natural areas – Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs), the criteria of which capture all of the different ideas mentioned above.

After this approach was developed, 13 of the world’s leading nature conservation institutions, including BirdLife International, formed the KBA partnership. Your goal is simple: to map, monitor, and maintain the most important places for life on earth. As part of this, we’ve launched a brand new website that currently contains data on more than 16,000 KBAs. Each individual location has information about the location, boundaries, and species and biodiversity for which they are important.

The website also explains how people can propose new KBAs and the criteria by which they will be assessed and how they will be used by governments, businesses, donors and the conservation community. It contains guidelines on how companies should proceed when working in or near KBAs and how KBAs are recognized as critical living space by a growing number of protection standards. The website provides free access to the World Database of KBAs and at-a-glance summaries via our interactive dashboard (which can be set at a global, regional or national level). More detailed questions can be answered using the Map Search option, which allows a user to select KBAs for specific species groups, regions and countries.

Global assessments of biodiversity patterns are useful, but most conservation policy decisions are made at the national level, so vital habitats need to be identified at the national level. If websites are to be legally protected and recognized as important, they must be included in their country’s guidelines. For this reason, KBAs are identified using local data and a bottom-up process. National KBA coordination groups are currently being set up in several countries around the world to carry out national assessments of their KBAs. Worldwide interest in establishing these groups is growing thanks to the benefits of using a globally recognized standard to identify key sites for biodiversity. Our challenge is to support each of them in efficiently identifying and maintaining the KBAs in their country.

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In the meantime, groups that focus on specific species are updating KBA ratings worldwide. For example, the Amphibian Survival Alliance is currently evaluating numerous KBAs for amphibians, while the IUCN is identifying locations for freshwater species in different parts of the world. The website provides useful information to support national KBA assessments as well as tools that KBA applicants can use to map and rate potential websites online.

The recent United Nations Biodiversity Summit offered governments, businesses and nature conservation officials an unprecedented opportunity to put KBAs in the spotlight, which were unveiled on Monday, September 28, 2020 at the Nature for Life hub. In the future, KBAs must form a core part of the next thirty-year plan for biodiversity that the global community is currently developing.

For the next decade, every government should ensure that KBAs are identified, mapped, and conserved as a priority in order to draft the world’s most important natural areas. Such a design would not only provide useful guidance for prioritizing conservation measures, but should also guide infrastructure development, urban and agricultural expansion, and business operations. The new KBA website and database ensure that all data on this design is compiled in one place and made freely available in order to control planning and investment on a global, regional and national level.

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