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Cartography of Hope for biodiversity

…in the Americas

Bird species in the Americas are getting a helping hand at sites across the Western Hemisphere, with the launch today by BirdLife International's Important Bird Area (IBA) programme of a roadmap for conservation, the Americas IBA Directory. This publication identifies 2,345 top-priority conservation sites in all 57 countries and territories. The IBA program not only provides a blueprint for policy makers to make informed decisions on habitat protection and restoration but is already helping the conservation of both threatened and common species as well as a wealth of wider biodiversity. The launch has been generously hosted by Inter-American Development Bank in Washington D.C.

"IBAs are becoming a formidable tool to help governments, the private sector, investment banks and donor organisations to direct conservation funding towards clearly defined priorities", said Dr Marco Lambertini, Chief Executive of BirdLife International. "Many of the people that live in and around IBAs also depend on them for natural resources and ecosystem services such as protection of water sources and driving sustainable economic development."

IBAs cover almost 8% of the land area of the Americas. They vary in size from less than one hectare (2.5 acres) in Barbados to a single site of about 7.3 million hectares (18 million acres) in Brazil. Nearly a third of the sites are in fully protected areas, with another 20% enjoying partial protection.The programme has brought together thousands of dedicated supporters from across the continents representing a huge network of 20 national NGOs in the Americas and at least 150 other collaborating organisations, and is already delivering tangible benefits and attracting greater investment in biodiversity conservation.

Many bird species such as Bobolink Dolichonyx oryzivorus, Swainson's Hawk Buteo swainsoni, Buff-breasted Sandpiper Tryngites subruficollis and Upland Sandpiper Bartramia longicauda need a network of sites covering their breeding grounds, migration stopover sites and wintering areas.

"BirdLife Partners in the Americas reach from Tierra del Fuego to the Tundra. If we could look down on these havens from above, as the birds themselves do during their astonishing, exhausting migrations, we'd view them as a cartography of hope. More is needed, but as long as these oases exist, saving the birds is still possible." - Margaret Atwood and Graeme Gibson, Joint Honorary Presidents, BirdLife International Rare Bird Club

"For a species such as Swainson's Hawk the connection leads from the U.S. through central Veracruz Mexico", said Frank Gill of Audubon. "There they join every fall with 27 species of raptors — millions of individual birds — in what's known as the River of Raptors. It’s an amazing spectacle and the heart of the world’s most important migratory flyway."

That's why Birdlife Partners from Pronatura in Mexico and Audubon in the U.S.are working with others to protect the last 9% of vital native forest that remains. These birds then continue until they reach South America, where they reach different countries and different BirdLife Partners.

In the pampas region of Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil, the Grasslands Alliance is protecting this habitat for wild birds whilst maintaining farming methods compatible with biodiversity conservation.

For Ronaldo Cantão, president of the organisation, APROPAMPA, bringing together cattle ranchers in southern Brazil, the Alliance is more than just sharing a vision, "We want those who buy our beef not only to take home a good steak, but also the peace of mind that an area of the pampas is being conserved".By working together with grassland ranchers the IBA program attempts to ensure a balance between livelihood needs and conserving critical habitat. Actions already being implemented at sites include natural grassland management for cattle and set-aside areas for wild birds.

By offering an inventory of real sites with well-defined boundaries and reliable assessments of their biodiversity value, IBA directories help ensure that development projects are truly sustainable.

Janine Ferretti, Chief of the Environment Safeguards Unit at the Inter-American Development Bank, said the bank uses IBAs to identify natural habitats or areas of known high ecological and conservation value. "They provide critical data for incorporating sustainable development in project investment decisions."

4th July 2014