World Commission on Protected Areas

Key Biodiversity Areas

IUCN World Conservation Congress 2016:

A Global Standard for the Identification of Key Biodiversity Areas


We are delighted to announce that the Global Standard for the Identification of Key Biodiversity Areas is now finalised, has been approved by the IUCN Council and was launched during the World Conservation Congress in Hawaii. 

The Standard is available in English, Spanish and French through the above link.



Task Force Objective 2: To consolidate a standard for the identification of sites contributing significantly to the global persistence of biodiversity.

Over the last three decades, various approaches to identifying sites of significance for biodiversity have been developed (see the resources page for more information). These approaches generally focus on one group of species or one biome, and use diverse assessment criteria, which has resulted in some confusion among decision-makers as well as duplication of efforts.

As a consequence, IUCN members requested IUCN to convene a worldwide consultative process to agree an overarching methodology to identify Key Biodiversity Areas.

Global consultation

The WCPA-SSC Joint Task Force on Biodiversity and Protected Area is leading this global consultation and has identified and mobilised key experts and organizations, including IUCN Commissions and members, academics, practitioners, resources managers, conservation organisations, national decision-makers, private and financial sectors to be involved in the process. 

This process includes:

2014 timeline for the KBA consultation process

Draft KBA standard and methodology
Technical review of KBA methodology
Revisions following technical review
Second review and e-consultation
Present KBA standard and methodology at World Parks Congress, Sydney, Australia

Stakeholders and end-users interviews

In addition to formal meetings, an end-user consultation process was conducted between 2012 and 2015. Selected end-user groups were interviewed, wherever possible in person or by phone/Skype, and case studies were developed to summarise end-user needs, types of products required, alignment with existing procedures, potential concerns, and implications for KBA development. A synthesis document summarising key implications for the KBA process has been produced, drawing from the case studies.

KBA stakeholders and end-users

  • Intergovernmental treaties
  • Intergovernmental agencies
  • Intergovernmental coalitions
  • Multi-lateral Development Banks
  • Donors
  • Multinational companies and industry associations
  • International conservation and development NGOs
  • Government: conservation agencies
  • Industry/industry associations (including national certification bodies)
  • Investors
  • Cultural/spiritual institutions
  • NGOs
  • Climate change
  • Ecosystem services
  • Restoration
  • Indigenous peoples

Technical workshops

Framing workshop

Framing Workshop

Framing Workshop, Photo: Framing Workshop

A major milestone of the consultation was the Framing workshop organised in Cambridge, UK, in June 2012: the participants agreed that the mission of this new standard is to identify sites that contribute significantly to the global persistence of biodiversity, for all levels of biodiversity (genetic, species, and ecosystem) and that is applicable in all regions to terrestrial, freshwater and marine realms. They also highlighted key questions for subsequent technical deliberation, on four high-level issues:

  • Criteria and delineation
  • Thresholds
  • Governance mechanisms of the process
  • Marine and freshwater issues

 The report of this workshop is available here.

Criteria and Delineation Workshop

Criteria and Delineation Workshop

Criteria and Delineation Workshop, Photo: Criteria and Delineation Workshop

During this workshop (held in Front Royal, near Washington, USA, in March 2013), draft KBA criteria were developed and recommendations for KBA delineation were agreed upon, which will be the starting point for the development of delineation guidelines for KBAs.The workshop also adressed addditional topic such as documentation of sites or viability, as they emerged from the discussions. 

The report of this workshop is available here.

Governance workshop

Governance Workshop (c) Mike Parr

The KBA Governance workshop (hosted by the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment in Brasilia on 6-9 November 2013) discussed possible governance mechanisms of the new KBA standard, in particular the role of the different stakeholders and the relationships between national and global processes. Participants drafted a Terms of Reference for a new KBA Committee that would report to the chairs of WCPA and SSC. They also developed a process for nominating, reviewing and endorsing KBAs and procedures for incorporating additional data into existing KBAs. 

The report of the workshop is available here.

Following the Governance workshop held in Brasilia, a one-day meeting was organised in Cambridge, UK, on 21 Jan 2014, to address two issues that could not be resolved due to time constraints in Brasilia: the review and petition processes. The addedum to the Governance report related to this meeting is available here.

 Threshold workshop 

KBA Threshold Workshop (c) Silvia Perez-Espona

The KBA Thresholds workshop (organized by Sapienza University at the Fondazione BioParco in Rome, Italy, on 1-5 December 2013) proposed quantitative thresholds of biodiversity significance for the four criteria recommended at the Criteria and Delineation workshop, helping to determine how “key” a site needs to be for it to be considered a “Key Biodiversity Area and developped an additional criteria on sites identified through a comprehensive quantitative analysis of irreplaceability. Discussions were informed by a set of analyses presented by Moreno di Marco of Sapienza University that explored conditions under which sites identified through threshold approaches (specifically, Important Bird Areas) align to grid cells identified through comprehensively quantitative calculation of irreplaceability. The thresholds proposed at the workshop are currently being examined for their implications for existing KBAs and tendency to yield commission errors (identifying too many sites) or omission errors (missing really important places).

The report of the workshop is available here.

Regional consultation

In order to achieve a globally agreed standard, the IUCN has led a number of activities across the globe to build consensus, stakeholder buy-in and encourage collaborative work. 

Relevant stakeholders, within and beyond the conservation community, have participated actively in our events. Reports and lists of participants are available for all the regional workshops and can be found in the Appendices of the KBA Consultation Report 2012.

A map of the location of the global consultation workshops to date can be viewed on the KBA Global Map of Activities as well as Table 2 highlighting the date, location and number of participants involved in the global consultation process. 

 Table 2. Date, location and participants of the global consultation. 




Number of Participants

July 2009


Beijing, China


May 2010


Nairobi, Kenya


December 2011


Auckland, New Zealand


February 2012

IUCN SSC Chairs Meeting

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates


February 2012

IUCN SSC Invertebrates Sub-Committee

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates


February 2012

IUCN SSC Plants Sub-Committee

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates


June 2012

Framing Workshop

Cambridge, United Kingdom


April 2012

Biodiversity Without Boundaries Conference

Oregon, United States of America


August 2012

Biodiversity Asia. SCB Regional Conference

Bangalore, India


September 2012


Glasgow, Scotland


September 2012


Jeju, South Korea


October 2012


Hyderabad, India


November 2012

ZSL Symposium

London, United Kingdom


December 2012

BIOPAMA Regional Workshop: Eastern and Southern Africa

Johannesburg, South Africa


January 2013

BIOPAMA Regional Workshop: Caribbean

Bridgetown, Barbados


February 2013

BIOPAMA Regional Workshop: Pacific

Suva, Fiji


February 2013

BIOPAMA Regional Workshop: West and Central Africa

Dakar, Senegal


February 2013

IAIA Symposium on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

Washington DC, United States of America


March 2013

Criteria and Delineation Workshop

Virginia, United States of America


April 2013

Biodiversity Without Boundaries Conference

Baltimore, United States of America


April  2013


Gregynog, United Kingdom


July  2013


Baltimore, United States of America


August  2013

Capacity building session on KBAs for IUCN Regional Office Directors and IUCN headquarters staff

Gland, Switzerland


October 2013


Montreal, Canada


October 2013


Marseille, France


November 2013

Governance Workshop

Brasilia, Brazil


December 2013

Thresholds Workshop

Rome, Italy


January 2014

Governance Follow-up Meeting

Cambridge, United Kingdom


April 2014

23rd Philippine Biodiversity Symposium

Cebu City, Philippines


September 2014 – November2014

KBA Draft Methodology Public Online Consultation: Round 1

Global, online

1200 (comments)

September 2014 – November2014

KBA End-user Questionnaire

Global, online


November 2014


Sydney, Australia


February 2015

KBA Criteria B Meeting

Cambridge, United Kingdom


February 2015

KBA Editorial Team Meeting

Cambridge, United Kingdom


April 2015

KBA Partnership Meeting

Washington, D.C. United States of America


April 2015

Biodiversity without Boundaries

Traverse City, United States of America


July 2015

KBA Draft Methodology Public Online Consultation: Round 2

Global, online




KBA Literature*

Science-policy interface

BROOKS, T. M. & MATIKU, P. 2011. The science-policy interface for safeguarding key biodiversity areas. Animal Conservation, 14, 111-113.


EDGAR, G. J. & BROOKS, T. M. 2011. Testing absolute and percentage thresholds in the identification of key biodiversity areas. Animal Conservation, 14, 12-13.


BROOKS, T. M., DE SILVA, N., DUYA, M. V., FOSTER, M., KNOX, D., LANGHAMMER, P., MARTHY, W. R. & TABARANZA, B., JR. 2008. Delineating Key Biodiversity Areas as targets for protecting areas, Cambridge University Press. Chapter in: 

SODHI, N. S., ACCIAIOLI, G., ERB, M. & TAN, A. K.-J. 2008. Biodiversity and human livelihoods in protected areas: case studies from the Malay Archipelago, Cambridge University Press.


KNIGHT, A. T., SMITH, R. J., COWLING, R. M., DESMET, P. G., FAITH, D. P., FERRIER, S., GELDERBLOM, C. M., GRANTHAM, H., LOMBARD, A. T., MAZE, K., NEL, J. L., PARRISH, J. D., PENCE, G. Q. K., POSSINGHAM, H. P., REYERS, B., ROUGET, M., ROUX, D. & WILSON, K. A. 2007. Improving the key biodiversity areas approach for effective conservation planning. BioScience, 57, 256-261.


EDGAR, G. J., LANGHAMMER, P. F., ALLEN, G., BROOKS, T. M., BRODIE, J., CROSSE, W., DE SILVA, N., FISHPOOL, L. D. C., FOSTER, M. N., KNOX, D. H., MCCOSKER, J. E., MCMANUS, R., MILLAR, A. J. K. & MUGO, R. 2008b. Key biodiversity areas as globally significant target sites for the conservation of marine biological diversity. Aquatic Conservation-Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 18,969-983.


HOLLAND, R. A., DARWALL, W. R. T. & SMITH, K. G. 2012. Conservation priorities for freshwater biodiversity: The Key Biodiversity Area approach refined and tested for continental Africa. Biological Conservation, 148, 167-179.


GASCON, C. 2007. Amphibian conservation action plan: proceedings IUCN/SSC Amphibian Conservation Summit 2005, IUCN.


BASS, D., ANDERSON, P. & DE SILVA, N. 2011. Applying thresholds to identify key biodiversity areas for marine turtles in Melanesia. Animal Conservation, 14, 1-11.


BENNUN, L., BAKARR, M., EKEN, G. & DA FONSECA, G. A. 2007. Clarifying the key biodiversity areas approach.BioScience, 57, 645-645.


FOSTER, M., BROOKS, T., CUTTELOD, A., DE SILVA, N., FISHPOOL, L., RADFORD, E. & WOODLEY, S. 2012. The identification of sites of biodiversity conservation significance: progress with the application of a global standard. Journal of Threatened Taxa, 4, 2733-2744.


FOSTER, M. N., MITTERMEIER, R. A., BADMAN, T., BESANCON, C., BOMHARD, B., BROOKS, T. M., DE SILVA, N., FISHPOOL, L., PARR, M., RADFORD, E. & TURNER, W. 2010. Synergies between World Heritage Sites and Key Biodiversity Areas. World Heritage, 56, 4-7.


LANGHAMMER, P. F., BAKARR, M.I., BENNUN, L.A., BROOKS, T.M., CLAY, R.P., DARWALL, W., DE SILVA, N., EDGAR, G.J.,, EKEN, G., FISHPOOL, L.D.C., FONSECA, G.A.B. DA, FOSTER, M.N., KNOX, D.H., MATIKU, P., RADFORD, E.A., & RODRIGUES, A. S. L., SALAMAN, P., SECHREST, W., AND TORDOFF, A.W. 2007. Identification and gap analysis of key biodiversity areas: targets for comprehensive protected area systems, Gland, Switzerland: IUCN.

For more information on Objective 2, contact Annabelle Cuttelod

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