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Prepared by the IUCN Species Survival Commission and IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas in association with the IUCN Global Species Programme.


At the World Conservation Congress, held in Bangkok, Thailand, in 2004, the IUCN Membership requested “a worldwide consultative process to agree a methodology to enable countries to identify Key Biodiversity Areas”. In response to this Resolution (WCC 2004 Res 3.013), the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) and the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) established a Joint Task Force on Biodiversity and Protected Areas. The Joint Task Force mobilised input from experts in the IUCN Commissions, Members and Secretariat staff, other conservation organisations, academia, governments, donors and the private sector to consolidate the criteria and methodology for identifying Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) as sites that contribute significantly to the global persistence of biodiversity.

The results of these efforts are summarised in this Global Standard for the Identification of KBAs (hereafter the KBA Standard), which builds on more than 30 years of experience in identifying important sites for different taxonomic, ecological and thematic subsets of biodiversity. These include, in particular, the 12,000 Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) identified by BirdLife International (2014), plus Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) sites (Ricketts et al. 2005), B-ranked sites (TNC 2001), Important Fungus Areas (Evans et al. 2001), Important Plant Areas (IPAs; Plantlife International 2004), Prime Butterfly Areas (van Swaay & Warren 2006) and KBAs covering multiple taxonomic groups in freshwater (Holland et al. 2012), marine (Edgar et al. 2008) and terrestrial systems (Eken et al. 2004, Langhammer et al. 2007) under previously published criteria.

The KBA Standard is formally taken to include definitions, the criteria and thresholds, and delineation procedures. It can be used by national constituencies to identify sites contributing significantly to the global persistence of biodiversity in terrestrial, inland water and marine environments. It is important that this Standard remains stable for a period of time to enable comparisons of sites qualifying as KBAs in different regions and over time. It is recognised, however, that the criteria and thresholds may need revision in the future as experience accumulates in their application and technological advances improve our measurement and understanding of biodiversity.

The aims of the KBA Standard are to:

  • Harmonise existing approaches to the identification of important sites for biodiversity;
  • Support the identification of important sites for elements of biodiversity not considered in existing approaches;
  • Provide a system that can be applied consistently and in a repeatable manner by different users and institutions in different places and over time;
  • Ensure that KBA identification is objective, transparent and rigorous through application of quantitative thresholds;
  • Provide decision-makers with an improved understanding of why particular sites are important for biodiversity.

Download the report here.