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The selection of Important Bird Areas (IBAs) is a project which BirdLife International (an international organization for the conservation of birds) has been conducting along with the cooperation of affiliated organizations from more than 100 nations worldwide, including the Wild Bird Society of Japan (WBSJ). This project is aimed at selecting ““important natural habitats using birds as indicator species”based on international criteria (IBAs criteria), conserving not only individual habitats but networks of habitats, globally. The project intends to promote the conservation of individual habitats through supporting the activities of local groups and organizations.
IBAs in Japan were selected in March 2004 by the WBSJ as a part of BirdLife International’s effort to create an Asian Region List of IBAs. 167 sites were selected, and the present state of each site was summarized in the “IBAs Report 2007”. This website introduces information regarding IBAs obtained from local support groups and the 2007 Report.
Selection of the IBAs in Japan
IBAs are selected based on international criteria established by BirdLife International.
The criteria were based on the Red Data Book and Endemic Bird Area published by the BirdLife International, Waterbird Population Estimates issued by Wetland International, and Articles 5 and 6 of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. The IBAs criteria are as follows:
A1 : Habitats that contain internationally endangered species (RDB species)
Sites that regularly contain or may contain a substantial number of species listed in the Asian Red Data Book.
A2 : Habitats that contain geographically-limited or endemic species
Sites that contain or may contain a considerable number of range-restricted species, as defined by BirdLife International (species with a world breeding range of less than 50,000 km2) .
A3 : Habitats that contain a significant number of species that are characteristic of a particular biome
Japan is divided into two biomes (High Latitude Forest Zone and Northeast Asia Temperate Forest Zone). Sites that contain or may contain more than one species that are range-limited mostly or only to these biomes.
A4 : Major habitats that are used or inhabited by migratory birds
Sites that regularly contain or may contain flocks of more than 20,000 waterbirds, including sites that have congregations of more than 20,000 migratory birds due to geographical factors (e.g. bottlenecks). These sites are further classified into the following (i –iv):
A4i : Sites that regularly contain or may contain more than 1 % of biogeographical populations of gregarious waterbirds.
A4ii : Sites that regularly contain or may contain more than 1 % of the world population of gregarious seabirds or land-birds.
A4iii : Sites that regularly contain or may contain more than 20,000 waterbirds of more than one species, or more than 10,000 pairs of seabirds.
A4iv : Bottlenecks of migratory routes that regularly hold more than 20,000 migratory birds.
Statuses on the Designated Protection of IBAs in Japan
Statuses on the land protection of 167 IBAs in Japan are summarized below:
Statuses of Legal Protection for IBAs
- Legally protected sites (Bird Sanctuaries, Wildlife Protection Areas, National Parks and special zones, Nature Conservation Areas, and sites containing natural monuments, where land alteration is legally regulated) : 2 sites
- Partially protected sites. : 71 sites
- Legal protection is insufficient (e.g. – the designated area of protection is too small) or not enough information.is given and must urgently be revisited : 39 sites
- No legal protection : 55 sites
Statuses of Threats to IBAs Conservation
- Habitat already lost : 1 site
- Projects involving massive environmental change which will result in functional losses of habitats are currently being conducted (or are being planned) : 2 sites
- Projects involving massive environmental change which may threaten the functions of habitats are currently being conducted (or are being planned). : 3 sites
Presently, 2 IBAs correspond with Ramsar-registered wetlands, and 23 IBAs partially correspond with Ramsar-registered wetlands. In addition, 100 IBAs, although not yet registered as a Ramsar wetlands, sufficiently meet the criteria for the Ramsar Convention on wetlands,. For these unregistered sites, it is necessary to gain the understanding of local groups, and work toward registeration.
Since IBAs per se are still insufficient in its legal power to fully protect natural habitats that require conservation, it is imperative that legal protection of IBAs and its surrounding areas continue to be promoted.