A New Way of Looking: Marine Imporant Bird Areas
Audubon Alaska has spent the last several years developing new methods based on mapping technology to identify marine Important Bird Areas, adding 124 new global IBAs to the list! See the map.
To find out more, read the report: Marine Important Bird Areas in Alaska: Identifying Globally Significant Sites Using Colony and At-Sea Survey Data
Suggested citation for the report:
Smith, M., N. Walker, C. Free, M. Kirchhoff, N. Warnock, A. Weinstein, T. Distler, and I. Stenhouse. 2012. Marine Important Bird Areas in Alaska: Identifying Globally Significant Sites Using Colony and At-sea Survey Data. Audubon Alaska: Anchorage.
Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve Reaches 31 Years in 2013
This Important Bird Area supports a population of up to 3,000 Bald Eagles in the fall. Read more about its history and current challenges.
Important Bird Areas near where the Kulluk drill rig grounded on New Year's Eve 2012
See the map.The Kulluk grounding occurred within a globally significant Important Bird Area where roughly 180,000 seabirds nest and more than 100,000 Black Scoters, White-winged Scoters, Harlequin Ducks, King Eiders, and Red-necked Grebes overwinter. Kiliuda Bay, where the Kulluk is being towed, is still within the same Important Bird Area.
A Global Currency for Bird Conservation
Important Bird Areas (IBAs) are exactly what their name implies: places or habitats that are essential for bird populations. The goal of the IBA program is to conserve birds by identifying, monitoring, and protecting critical bird habitats. Because habitat loss is the most serious threat facing bird species across North America and around the world, Audubon's IBA program is a site-based initiative to address habitat loss through community-supported conservation.
IBAs are designated and ranked against a rigorous set of scientific criteria, set and interpreted by local and then national committees of leading bird experts convened by Audubon. IBAs may be a few acres or thousands of acres, but they are discrete sites that stand out from the surrounding landscape. For a place to qualify as an IBA, it must either support a large concentration of birds, provide habitat for a threatened or rare species, or provide habitat for a bird with a very limited or restricted range. Once nominated and selected as an IBA, a site is then ranked as significant at either the state, continental, or global level.
All IBAs in Alaska and the United States are added to a common database, now accessible online. You can see a full listing of Alaska's IBAs, with links to site profiles for each area. We also have a GIS database of Alaska's IBAs; please email Melanie A. Smith or call her at (907) 276-7034 for more information.
Global Currency for Conservation
Alaska's IBAs are part of a growing global network of designated IBAs, spanning 156 countries around the world and 26 countries in the Western Hemisphere alone. This international effort is led worldwide by BirdLife International and in the United States by the National Audubon Society. Because every IBA across the planet has been designated and ranked against the same criteria, we often refer to IBAs as a Global Currency for Conservation. Globally, thousands of IBAs and millions of acres of avian habitat have received recognition and better protection as a result of the IBA program.
So far Audubon has identified and designated 145 IBAs in Alaska, the majority of which are ranked as globally significant. In fact, Alaska has almost half of all globally significant IBAs identified in the United States so far--which is not surprising when one considers the diversity and quality of habitat found in Alaska's 365 million acres of land, 47,000 miles of marine shoreline, and 3 million lakes and rivers.
Some of Alaska's IBAs are publicly-owned; some are privately-owned; some are swaths of marine areas. In Alaska, conservation needs range from nonnative species management to legal protections to education and outreach.
Over the several years Audubon Alaska seeks to:
- Identify additional IBAs across Alaska, particularly in Interior Alaska based on survey data;
- Work with state and national technical committees to review nominations and document sites;
- Work with partners in Canada, Washington, Oregon, California, and Mexico on an international Pacific Flyway initiative for marine IBAs;
- Upgrade and update the Alaska IBA database and associated maps (including GIS files);
- Select highest priority IBAs, assessing threats, species status, and conservation opportunities;
- Initiate site assessments and monitoring plans for high priority IBAs, working with communities, volunteers, and local Audubon chapters;
- Monitor threats to IBAs, and cooperate with agency officials, landowners, land managers, planners, neighbors, and other stakeholders to prevent and/or mitigate those threats;
- Expand outreach and education efforts, including online tools (e.g., web-based mapping applications) and citizen science initiatives at IBAs; and
- Promote community buy-in and on-the-ground action.
You can download the GIS data for Alaska's IBAs here. For additional information on the Important Bird Areas Program in Alaska, please email Melanie A. Smith, Landscape Ecologist or call her at (907) 276-7034.