Hundreds of important sites for nature threatened with destruction

Posted on the 17th November 2014

Hundreds of important sites for nature threatened with destruction
Johannesburg, 16 November 2014: More than 350 of the planet’s most important sites for nature are threatened with being lost forever according to a new report by BirdLife International.
Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) are places of international significance for the conservation of the world’s birds and other nature, with over twelve thousand having been identified worldwide, including 122 in South Africa. IBAs are the largest and most comprehensive global network of important sites for nature conservation. Now, 356 of these– known as ‘IBAs in Danger’– have been identified in 122 countries and territories as being in imminent danger of being lost. Of those,ten are in South Africa, of which only two are legally protected, which highlights the importance of improving the management effectiveness of protected areas.
“‘IBAs in Danger’ provides an essential focus for governments, development agencies, the international environmental and conservation conventions, business and wider civil society to act to prevent the further damage or loss of these sites of international significance”, said Melanie Heath, BirdLife’s Director of Science, Policy and Information.
“Collectively we must work to mitigate these threats, strengthen the implementation of national and local laws and policies ensuring environmental safeguards are implemented at the earliest stages of development, as well as enhancing the management of these sites”, says Heath.
Examples of ‘IBAs in Danger’ include: the Grasslands and Steenkampsberg IBAs - which are threatened by mining, fire and overgrazing; and the Botriviervlei and Kleinmond Estuary and Lower Berg River Wetlands IBAs - key feeding areas for many waterbirds. Unfortunately, the upstream agricultural activities threaten these estuarine systems.
The new report Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas: a global network for conserving nature and benefiting people– being launched at the IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia – details aspects of the work of the IBA programme over the last four decades. IBAs have proven extremely influential, by helping to target conservation efforts at priority sites, by stimulating the designation of formal protected areas for many sites and by inspiring similar approaches for other taxa.
“The designation of the Mpumalanga Lakes District Protected Environment (including Chrissiesmeer, an ‘IBA in Danger’) in January this year was a milestone for IBA conservation in South Africa. BirdLife South Africa has been working tirelessly with its partners since 2011 to proclaim this IBA as a protected area. This network of over 350 natural pans, set in 60 000 ha of pristine grasslands, is now protected from unsustainable developments while under the custodianship of the 16 private landowners under the Biodiversity Stewardship Programme,” said Daniel Marnewick, BirdLife South Africa’s IBA Programme Manager. Marnewick presented this landmark success story at the IUCN World Parks Congress.
The world’s ‘IBAs in Danger’ overlap with no fewer than 56 Wetlands of International Importance, designated through the Ramsar Convention. The main threats to these sites are inappropriate water management, recreation and agriculture. Yet, these areas variously provide free water treatment and flood defences and also support the livelihoods for people living around them.
Since the IBA programme’s inception in the late 1970s, BirdLife International, through its 120 National Partners, has applied this influential approach to site conservation in virtually all of the world’s countries and territories, both on land and at sea. As such, in addition to the programme’s significant direct contribution to bird and wider biodiversity conservation, many hundreds of protected areas have been designated as a direct consequence of their recognition as IBAs. IBAs have also had considerable and, indeed, increasing relevance in developing responses to a number of wider environmental issues, such as habitat loss, ecosystem degradation, sustainable resource use and climate change.
For more information, images or interviews please contact:
Daniel Marnewick: BirdLife South Africa – tel +27 (0)11 789 1122
Martin Fowlie:BirdLife International tel +44 (0)1223 279813. 

Botriviervlei & Kleinmond Estuary IBA     Image: Carin Malan











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