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Conservation Safety Net

…for Dominican Republic biodiversity

Grupo Jaragua (BirdLife in Dominican Republic) has officially launched the country's first Important Bird Area (IBA) directory, alongside collaborators the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MIRENA) and the Technological Institute of Santo Domingo (INTEC). By launching this publication Dominican Republic has provided a safety net for its fragile and declining biodiversity. A net made up by the actions and efforts of multiple organisations, agencies, institutions, and individuals.

The Dominican IBA directory has detailed information on the 21 natural spaces that comprise the network of priority conservation sites for the Dominican Republic's birdlife, which cover a total of 721,264 ha (7,212.64 km²) or approximately 13% of Dominican territory. Important aspects for each priority site is presented in the form of technical factsheets, such as site description, birdlife, other biodiversity, protection status, threats, as well as conservation/management actions implemented in the site. The factsheets also contain bird species illustrations, photos of characteristic habitats, and location maps.Dominican IBAs were identified on the basis of 50 key bird species, of which 20 area globally threatened, 34 have restricted distribution ranges and 10 congregate in significant numbers during breeding, feeding or migration reasons. Of the 21 identified IBAs, 20 sustain critical populations of globally threatened birds; 17 are permanent home to range restricted species; 5 sustain significant global populations of aquatic or marine birds.

The good news is almost all of Dominican Republic's biozones, habitats and vegetation types are represented within the 21 IBA network. Almost all of Dominican IBAs are legally protected by some category within the National Protected Area System. Better yet, some have received additional international recognition as a Wetland of International Importance (Ramsar site), Biosphere Reserve, and/or Alliance for Zero Extinction site. The bad news is that birds still face a series of threats by habitat loss (mostly by agricultural and farming activities, coastal development and mining), invasive species (e.g. rats, dogs, mongoose, donkeys, and even bird species), as well as over-exploitation (e.g. poaching for pet trade, persecution fomented on traditional perceptions and beliefs, survival and sport hunting).The IBA Dominican Program began in 2002, and since then has conservation efforts on IBAs such as Jaragua National Park, Sierra de Bahoruco, Enriquillo Lake, Los Haitises and Bahía de las Calderas. It has also been instrumental in the construction of local and national stakeholder capacities, through funding, technical training, provision of equipment and outreach materials, Partner institutional strengthening, formation of local conservation groups, among others.

The establishment of the IBA Program in the Dominican Republic has been a process of participative and collaborative work between local and central government, private sector, national and international non-governmental organisations, local community, international cooperation agencies, and a long list of experts and bird lovers. Next steps for further IBA conservation are monitoring, strategic alliances with private sector, strengthening of stakeholder networks, co-management, and advocacy to ensure IBA long-term integrity.

Las Áreas Importantes para la Conservación de las Aves en República Dominicana was published with financial support from BirdLife International, Global Environmental Facility, United Nations Environmental Programme, and the John D. & Catherine MacArthur Foundation. MIRENA and INTEC supported data analysis, while United Fish and WildLife Service (USFWS) facilitated a series of bird illustrations.

4th July 2014