Are IBAs Protected?
Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) are a relatively new concept in
Canada and are not legally protected in their own right.
In contrast, governments throughout the European Union
legally recognize and strictly regulate most IBAs as
Special Protected Areas. In some developing nations,
IBAs may represent the only protected areas in
In Canada, IBAs complement (and often overlap
partially or entirely with) other national, provincial,
and local conservation designations such as National and
Provincial Parks, Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, National
Wildlife Areas, Crown Reserve lands, and Ecological
These protected area networks were established long
before the IBA program was conceived. Sites within these
systems are designated for a wide variety of reasons
(e.g., scenic beauty; landform; generic wildlife values;
special ecosystems) and confer varying degrees of
protection and regulation.
While these designations are important for conserving
biodiversity in general, some are less effective than
others for protecting bird populations. Of concern is
that roughly 50% of Canada’s IBAs do not overlap at all
with legally protected sites, and just 36% by land area
is protected. The conservation status of many
unprotected IBAs would be greatly improved by including
these IBAs in expanded protected areas networks. For
other IBAs, alternative conservation strategies are more
appropriate and could include tools such as conservation
easements and agreements, private land stewardship, and
IBAs occupy a special niche because they are defined
and designated specifically on the basis of bird
populations. They are particularly valuable because they
form a network of sites that spans the globe.
Click here for a summary of the protection status of
Canada's Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas.