Are IBAs Protected?

Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) are a relatively new concept in Canada and are not legally protected in their own right. In contrast, governments throughout the European Union legally recognize and strictly regulate most IBAs as Special Protected Areas. In some developing nations, IBAs may represent the only protected areas in existence.

In Canada, IBAs complement (and often overlap partially or entirely with) other national, provincial, and local conservation designations such as National and Provincial Parks, Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, National Wildlife Areas, Crown Reserve lands, and Ecological Reserves.

These protected area networks were established long before the IBA program was conceived. Sites within these systems are designated for a wide variety of reasons (e.g., scenic beauty; landform; generic wildlife values; special ecosystems) and confer varying degrees of protection and regulation.

While these designations are important for conserving biodiversity in general, some are less effective than others for protecting bird populations. Of concern is that roughly 50% of Canada’s IBAs do not overlap at all with legally protected sites, and just 36% by land area is protected. The conservation status of many unprotected IBAs would be greatly improved by including these IBAs in expanded protected areas networks. For other IBAs, alternative conservation strategies are more appropriate and could include tools such as conservation easements and agreements, private land stewardship, and land acquisition.

IBAs occupy a special niche because they are defined and designated specifically on the basis of bird populations. They are particularly valuable because they form a network of sites that spans the globe.

Click here for a summary of the protection status of Canada's Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas.

Burrowing Owl
Photo: © Shutterstock
Piping Plover
Photo: © iStock Photo

The IBA Program is an international conservation initiative coordinated by BirdLife International. The Canadian co-partners for the IBA Program are Birds Canada and Nature Canada.
   © Birds Canada