An evaluation of Marine Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas in the context of spatial conservation prioritization

Jennifer McGowan, Robert J Smith, Moreno Di Marco, Rohan H Clarke, Hugh P Possingham

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14 Citations (Scopus)


Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) are sites identified as globally important for bird species conservation. Marine IBAs are one of the few comprehensive multi-species datasets available for the marine environment, and their use in conservation planning will likely increase as countries race to protect 10% of their territorial waters by 2020. We tested 15 planning scenarios for Australia's Exclusive Economic Zone to guide best practice on integrating marine IBAs into spatial conservation prioritization. We found prioritizations based solely on habitat protection failed to protect IBAs, and prioritizations based solely on IBAs similarly failed to meet basic levels of habitat representation. Further, treating all marine IBAs as irreplaceable sites produced the most inefficient plans in terms of ecological representativeness and protection equality. Our analyses suggest that marine spatial planners who wish to use IBAs treat them like any other conservation feature by assigning them a specific protection target.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12399
Number of pages8
JournalConservation Letters
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2018


  • conservation
  • IBAs
  • MPAs
  • protection equality
  • representation
  • seabirds
  • spatial prioritization

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