What are IBA sites?
IBA (Important Bird Areas) sites are marked by occurrence of especially valuable bird species or especially high numbers of birds. In particular, IBA sites host:
- rare bird species threatened with extinction,
- range-restricted species or species characteristic for specific natural biomes,
- large concentrations of migrating and wintering birds.
IBA bird sites are identified on the basis of rigorous criteria developed by BirdLife International. The criteria are founded on scientific knowledge and are used in the same standardised way across all the countries in the world.
The IBA sites indicate where key bird conservation sites are found. Therefore, identifying IBA bird sites means creating a reference list which points to where we should act in the first place to effectively protect birds, and which areas within the existing site protection network should be conserved. Thanks to the identification of IBA sites it is possible to effectively protect the populations of birds and their habitats, and to protect biodiversity in general. IBAs are sites with the highest conservation priority, where limited nature conservation resources can be used the most cost-effectively.
IBA network in the world
The IBA scheme was initiated in the 1970s and has been globally coordinated by BirdLife International – the world’s partnership for organisations working to protect birds. Implementing the IBA scheme in individual countries is typically done by BirdLife International partnership organisations, such as the Polish Society for the Protection of Birds in Poland. To date, over 11,000 bird sites have been identified in the world in about 200 countries. It is estimated that the target number of IBA sites will be about 15,000, altogether covering 10,000,000 km2, which is about 7% of the world’s land.
Apart from identification of bird sites, the IBA scheme also aims at the development of active conservation measures, management and monitoring in the sites. Monitoring data collected in individual countries (including Poland) are entered into the World Bird Database (WBDB), which allows analysis of processes taking place in bird sites at the level of the continent or globally.
IBA bird sites in Poland
In Poland, the IBA scheme is coordinated by the Polish BirdLife International partner, the Polish Society for the Protection of Birds (OTOP). The beginning of the bird site network in Poland dates back to the 1990s. Since then, OTOP has prepared three publications (in 1994, 2004 and 2010), which comprehensively describe all the bird sites in Poland.
The last publication, issued in 2010, indicates 174 areas in Poland that meet IBA bird site criteria. Of these, 170 are terrestrial sites and 4 are marine sites. The area of a terrestrial site ranges from 166 ha to more than 370,000, on average 34,000 ha. Nearly a half of the bird sites in Poland (about 45%) is covered by forest and tree groups and also by open habitats, such as meadows, pastures and other farmland (about 35%). All the 174 sites meet at least one criterion (on average about 4 criteria), which identifies them as bird sites of international importance. In each site, there are 1 to 32 species (on average about 4 species), which qualified the site as an IBA.