Key Biodiversity Areas


Geographical coverage

Geographical scale of the assessment Global
Country or countries covered
Any other necessary information or explanation for identifying the location of the assessment, including site or region name

Many existing methodologies can be included under the "Key Biodiversity Areas" umbrella. This includes Birdlife's Important Bird Areas (IBAs), Alliance for Zero Extinction sites (AZEs), and others which have been identified in numerous countries to date.

Conceptual framework, methodology and scope

Assessment objectives

The Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) methodology main objective is to identify sites that contribute significantly to the global persistence of biodiversity, identified through a set of clearly defined and easy to apply criteria and thresholds.

Mandate for the assessment

IUCN members, which include conservation organizations, academia, and governments, requested IUCN to convene a worldwide consultative process to agree a methodology to enable countries to identify Key Biodiversity Areas, drawing on data from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and other datasets, building on existing approaches (RESWCC3.013). This task was renewed through adopted resolution WCC-2012-Res-036. at the 2012 World Conservation Congress in Jeju, South Korea.

Key Biodiversity Areas are also one of the six priority IUCN Knowledge Products as identified in the 2013-2016 IUCN Programme which was adopted by IUCN members in the 2012 World Conservation Congress, and is available here:

Conceptual framework and/or methodology used for the assessment

Other (please specify)

Over the last three decades, various programmes to identify specific sites of global significance for biodiversity have been developed. These inventories, called Key biodiversity Areas (KBAs), have informed the selection of sites for protection under national and international legislation, are considered in international sustainability performance standards, and are included under multi-lateral environmental agreements. While the identification of KBAs to date has delivered substantial benefits, it is neither complete nor unified in assessment criteria. This has resulted in some confusion among decision-makers as well as duplication of efforts. IUCN is leading a global consultation process involving stakeholders within and beyond the conservation community and building on existing work, to develop a globally agreed standard on KBAs. The consultation is led by the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas and Species Survival Commission Joint Task Force on Biodiversity and Protected Areas, which activities for 2012- 2014 include: i) organizing of regional consultations in relevant regional fora; ii) convening technical working groups and reviews to address main issues identified through the process; and iii) publishing a set of guidelines, methods and recommendations that national constituencies can follow to identify KBAs in their respective regions or countries; iv) developing an online spatial tool and a consolidated KBA data system building. The final goal of this process is to provide an objective, scientifically rigorous methodology that is easy to apply, to identify KBAs across taxonomic groups and terrestrial, freshwater, and marine biomes.

URL or copy of conceptual framework developed or adapted

System(s) assessed

  • Marine
  • Coastal
  • Island
  • Inland water
  • Forest and woodland
  • Cultivated/Agricultural land
  • Grassland
  • Mountain
  • Dryland
  • Polar
  • Urban

Species groups assessed

Birds, Plants, Mammals,Freshwater Fish, Freshwater Molluscs, Freshwater Dragonflies and Damselflies,Freshwater Crabs, Butterflies

Ecosystem services/functions assessed



Supporting Services/Functions

Cultural Services

Scope of assessment includes

Drivers of change in systems and services


Impacts of change in services on human well-being


Options for responding/interventions to the trends observed


Explicit consideration of the role of biodiversity in the systems and services covered by the assessment


Timing of the assessment

Year assessment started

Pre 2000

Year assessment finished


If ongoing, year assessment is anticipated to finish

Periodicity of assessment


If repeated, how frequently

Assessment outputs



Communication materials (e.g. brochure, presentations, posters, audio-visual media)

Journal publications

Training materials

Other documents/outputs

Tools and processes

Tools and approaches used in the assessment

  • Geospatial analysis

Process used for stakeholder engagement in the assessment process and which component

Key Biodiversity Areas are sites of global importance for biodiversity but identified at a national level by national constituencies. The KBA process should involve a wide range of stakeholders including local NGOs, government agencies, scientists and practitioners. KBAs are identified by a minimum of three steps: 1)Data compilation 2)Application of the criteria and thresholds 3)Delineation and validation of sites.

Key stakeholder groups engaged

  • Local and national governmental agencies
  • Local and national NGOs
  • International Conservation Organizations
  • Local Communities

The number of people directly involved in the assessment process


Incorporation of scientific and other types of knowledge

  • Scientific information only
  • Resource experts (e.g. foresters etc)
  • Traditional/local knowledge

Supporting documentation for specific approaches, methodology or criteria developed and/or used to integrate knowledge systems into the assessment

Assessment reports peer reviewed



Accessibility of data used in assessment

Policy impact

Impacts the assessment has had on policy and/or decision making, as evidenced through policy references and actions

Key Biodiversity Areas are key to monitor progress towards the achievement of Aichi Biodiversity Targets 11 (Protected Areas) and 12 (Prevent species extinction) as they are those sites where globally significant biodiversity is found. Not all KBAs should be Protected Areas. These sites can indeed be used to expand current protected areas coverage but also targets for the implementation of environmentally friendly schemes (i.e organic certification standards).

Independent or other review on policy impact of the assessment


Lessons learnt for future assessments from these reviews

Capacity building

Capacity building needs identified during the assessment

Actions taken by the assessment to build capacity

Workshops, Communication and awareness raising

How have gaps in capacity been communicated to the different stakeholders

Knowledge generation

Gaps in knowledge identified from the assessment

How gaps in knowledge have been communicated to the different stakeholders

Additional relevant information