Major review of wild bird sites released

Birdlife NGO network details 3,600 areas across Europe, claims half are threatened

International NGO network Birdlife today launched a major new survey of European sites important for wild birds, backed by MEPs and EU environment commissioner Margot Wallström. The list of over 3,600 sites is nearly 50% larger than the group's previous 1989 survey. Birdlife claims that nearly half of all the "important bird areas" (IBAs) it identifies are "seriously threatened" by development pressures, particularly intensive agriculture.

Birdlife's 1989 survey of IBAs has already played an significant role in development of habitat conservation measures by EU states. Today's report is set to maintain that influence by identifying many more IBAs and by listing large numbers in central and eastern Europe for the first time.

As defined by Birdlife, IBAs are critical habitats for conservation of wild birds, including wetlands, forest and grasslands. Its new report identifies sites for 70% of wild bird species, covering 7% of Europe's land area.

The group claims that "immediate action" is required to safeguard IBAs, noting that 60% of those identified are not protected. Today it called on European countries to designate all IBAs as protected areas under national law, to adequately manage IBAs and to monitor them to understand changes. It added that special efforts were needed to prevent damage to IBAs in EU applicant countries as they adapt to the Union's common agricultural policy.

Follow Up:
Birdlife International, tel: +32 2 280 0830.

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