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Different broad-scale conservation priorities overlap extensively

Endemic Bird Areas (EBAs) successfully capture c.85–90% of the total species diversity of mammals, snakes, amphibians and plants in mainland sub-Saharan Africa (see figure)1,2. In addition, EBAs include no less than 96% of the avian species diversity in this region1. This is achieved through 22 EBAs covering just 7.9% of the land area. EBAs are clearly excellent indicators of vertebrate and plant diversity patterns in sub-Saharan Africa, due to the common ecological principles and evolutionary histories on which species distributions are based. This congruence of species diversity across widely differing taxonomic groups is likely to be similar in other parts of the world for which data are not yet available. This is good news, meaning that we can use the EBA network to set priorities for biodiversity conservation in In sub-Saharan Africa, the great majority of vertebrate and general. In other words, plant diversity is captured by the network of 22 EBAs identifed conserving habitats based on in this region1 bird diversity will effectively capture an approximately 100 equivalent complement of 80 total terrestrial species diversity. This pattern is very 60 useful because data on bird 40 distribution and endemism are often better than those for any 20 other taxa (see pp. 6–7). SOURCES 1. Burgess et al. (2002) Biol. Conserv.

107: 327–339. 2. Burgess & Lovett in litt. (2003).






SOURCES 1. Redford et al. (2002) Conserv. Biol. 17: 116–131. 2. Stattersfield et al. (1998) Endemic Bird Areas of the world: priorities for biodiversity conservation. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International. 3. Mittermeier et al. (1998) Conserv. Biol. 12: 516– 520. 4. Olson & Dinerstein (1998) Conserv. Biol. 12: 502–515.

Priorities must be set to target scarce resources

Number of priority-setting approaches that cover area 1



Despite differences in approach, Endemic Bird Areas, Terrestrial Biodiversity Hotspots and Global 200 Ecoregions overlap extensively, helping to focus attention on the world’s most important places for biodiversity conservation2,3,4

Global investment in biodiversity conservation must be massively scaled up. Until that happens, it is essential to set priorities for where limited resources should be invested. Since BirdLife identified Endemic Bird Areas in 1992, many other conservation organisations have set largescale geographical priorities. These overlap extensively, pointing a way forward to agreeing a common set of priorities (box 2). Biogeographic patterns mean that we can use

birds, usually the best-known group, as an initial basis for planning, being confident that the great bulk of other biodiversity will be captured too, both at a large scale (box 3) and at site level (see pp. 28–29).


(10% sample)

What birds tell us about solutions

These priority areas have been identified using different approaches and criteria, including different taxonomic coverage at different scales, yet they show considerable geographic overlap and similarity (see figure). For example, EBAs, Terrestrial Biodiversity Hotspots and Global 200 Ecoregions all encompass the Atlantic Forest of Brazil, the Philippines, large parts of Madagascar and the tropical Andes. These priority-setting frameworks are valuable for focusing global-scale attention and funding on the world’s most important places for biodiversity conservation.

Birds are valuable indicators of global patterns in biodiversity


Well-established, large-grain, global priority analyses that ask ‘where’ conservation should be done include Endemic Bird Areas (EBAs) (BirdLife International)2, Terrestrial Biodiversity Hotspots (Conservation International)3 and the Global 200 Ecoregions (WWF)4. EBAs (numbering 218) are areas where two or more bird species with ranges of less than 50,000 km2 co-occur (see pp. 22–23). Hotspots (25) are biogeographic regions with high levels of plant endemism (at least 1,500 endemic plants, corresponding to 0.5% of the global vascular plant flora) and where less than 30% of the original natural habitat remains. Global 200 Ecoregions (200) are considered the most biologically valuable ecoregions, containing outstanding examples of each of the world’s habitat types.


% of species captured

Responding to the need to focus effort and investment, many conservation organisations have carried out priority-setting exercises. However, these differ extensively in their targets, scale (both ‘grain’, i.e. size of the unit of analysis, and extent), and whether they tackle questions of where or how to do conservation1. Given these disparities, argument about the ‘right’ way to set priorities is not surprising. Different approaches are often trying to achieve different things, or are nested within one another in terms of scale. When approaches of similar grain, extent and purpose are compared, there are often reassuring levels of agreement.

State of the world’s birds 2004



State of the world’s birds 2004  

State of the world’s birds provides information on how birds can be used to focus action and as indicators to monitor change. Using the most...

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