Identifying globally important sites for life on earth: scoping of Key Biodiversity Areas: May 2019 blog entry

31st May 2019

The following blog is written by Andrew Plumptre, Head KBA Secretariat, c/o BirdLife International and Daniele Baisero, Data Analyst, KBA Secretariat, c/o Wildlife Conservation Society (project members for the CCI Collaborative Fund project ‘Identifying globally important sites for life on earth: scoping of Key Biodiversity Areas’).

There are two main components to this project: creation of Standardized Extent of Suitable Habitat (ESH) Models, and their use for the assessment of potential (modelled) KBAs.

A meeting held in November 2018 at the David Attenborough Building agreed on a Standardized approach to ESH Model development for the project. This brought together participants from IUCN in Washington DC, IUCN Red List, BirdLife International, RSPB, WCMC, WCS, Universities of Cambridge, Sapienza, Milan, and Hellenic Centre for Marine Research. It also included students in the Inspire4Nature projects from University of Sapienza, Rome and Hellenic Centre for Marine Research who are working on KBA-related projects, one of whom is improving the crosswalk matching IUCN habitat classifications to satellite landcover maps of the world. The methodological process to developed ESH Models for terrestrial species was agreed by the participants, and it was agreed that results from this project would be published in a special issue of publications. 

The collaboration further allowed the team to identify overlap with parallel projects that the project partner institutions have been engaged with and to agree on approaches to eliminate the duplication of outputs and to share data with all interested parties. It led to the collaboration being enlarged to include WCMC and the NatureMap project they are engaged with. 

The framework and software (R package) needed to create ESH Models has been created and is functional although not ready for public release, and the models for 29,631 species have been developed. 

A database structure to collect and host KBA assessment parameters has been designed and now holds the models for all breeding ESH for all species.

A data-driven crosswalk table to translate IUCN habitat classes to the land-cover classes used by prominent land-cover products (UN-LCCS) is currently being developed by the partners in Sapienza University and BirdLife International. This will be used to develop the final model version that will be published.

The next steps will consist in analysing the developed ESH Models, populating the database with data from the models of non-breeding ESH and creating functions to evaluate potential (modelled) KBA status for an arbitrary area using data in the database of assessment parameters. Preliminary code development has already been made to test on the models when finalised. 

The production of Standardized ESH Models is expected to be completed within the next 6 months. Discussions with IUCN Red List team has led to the agreement that these models, once validated, will be distributed through the IUCN Red List website, and software used to develop them will be made publicly available and distributed in conjunction with the first scientific publications resulting from this project.

A special issue of publications based on analyses of these models to inform the CBD post-2020 agenda, and expected to be published in 2020 is currently in development. A publication mapping concentrations of likely KBAs will also be produced in 2020.

For more information on the CCI Collaborative Fund project, please visit the project page.