What are KBAs & how are they identified?

Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA) are 'sites contributing significantly to the global persistence of biodiversity’, in terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems. 

The Global Standard for the Identification of Key Biodiversity Areas (IUCN 2016) sets out globally agreed criteria for the identification of KBAs worldwide. The KBA Standard establishes a consultative, science-based process for KBA identification, founded on the consistent application of global criteria with quantitative thresholds that have been developed through an extensive consultation exercise spanning several years. The Standard is also available in French and Spanish.

Sites qualify as global KBAs if they meet one or more of 11 criteria, clustered into five categories: threatened biodiversity; geographically restricted biodiversity; ecological integrity; biological processes; and, irreplaceability. The KBA criteria can be applied to species and ecosystems in terrestrial, inland water and marine environments. Although not all KBA criteria may be relevant to all elements of biodiversity, the thresholds associated with each of the criteria may be applied across all taxonomic groups (other than micro-organisms) and ecosystems.

The KBA identification process is a highly inclusive, consultative and bottom-up exercise. Although anyone with appropriate scientific data may propose a site to qualify as a KBA, consultation with stakeholders at the national level (both non-governmental and governmental organizations) is required during the proposal process. KBA identification should build off the existing network of KBAs (including Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas and Alliance for Zero Extinction sites) and new data should seek to strengthen and expand the network of these sites. Any site proposal must undergo independent scientific review. This is followed by the official site nomination with full documentation meeting the Documentation Standards for KBAs. Sites confirmed by the KBA Secretariat to qualify as KBAs then appear on this website.

The consultation process to develop A Global Standard for the Identification of Key Biodiversity Areas was led by the IUCN WCPA-SSC Joint Task Force on Biodiversity and Protected Areas. It involved a Framing workshop; technical workshops on Criteria and Delineation, quantitative Thresholds, and Governance of the process to identify KBAs; a second Governance meeting; 14 separate regional consultations held around the world; and interviews with end users of KBA data. A first public consultation draft was posted in 2014, generating more than 1200 comments and responses. The second consultation draft on the Standard was posted in 2015, generating an additional 600 comments and responses. More information on the consultation process to develop the KBA Standard can be found on the Joint Task Force website.

A set of Guidelines for using A Global Standard for the Identification of Key Biodiversity Areas v1.0 has been developed to help users apply the KBA criteria. These guidelines explain the key terms in each of the criteria, and how to measure the criteria using different assessment parameters. They identify issues that may arise, and provide solutions to resolve them. The guidelines also describe how to delineate the spatial extent of KBAs to facilitate more informed conservation management.

Submission of proposals for KBAs to the World Database of Key Biodiversity Areas follows a systematic review process to ensure that the KBA criteria have been applied correctly and that the sites can be recognised as globally important for the persistence of biodiversity.  Key Biodiversity Areas Proposal Process: Guidance on Proposing, Reviewing, Nominating and Confirming sites. Version 1.0 has been published to help guide proposers through the development of proposals and the review process, highlighting where they can obtain help in making a proposal. An interim KBA Proposal Form (KBA Proposal and Nomination Form, v. 3.3.3) has also been developed. It calculates the criteria automatically for a user, which should be used when proposing sites. Details on completing the form are given in Annex C of the KBA Proposal Process and documentation requirements for proposals described in Annex B. To access KBA Proposal and Nomination Form, v. 3.3.3, please send an email to the BirdLife Information Management Team.