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These include important plant areas (Anderson 2002), prime butterfly areas (van Swaay and Warren 2003), important mammal areas in the United States (Linzey 2002), and important sites for freshwater biodiversity, with prototype criteria developed for freshwater mollusks (Darwall and Vié forthcoming).Initial studies suggest that the congruence between IBAs and important sites for other taxa is high (Brooks et al. In this article, we build on these developments and propose a general framework and associated criteria for identifying key biodiversity areas (KBAs).Sites are selected using standardized, globally applicable, threshold-based criteria, driven by the distribution and population of species that require site-level conservation.The criteria address the two key issues for setting site conservation priorities: vulnerability and irreplaceability.The current rate of global extinction for plants and animals, which is due to human activities, is more than a thousand times higher than the typical rates throughout life's history on Earth (Pimm et al. However, conservationists do not have the time or resources to conserve species one by one (Ehrlich 1992); they need to maximize the return from conservation investments.Large-scale conservation planning initiatives, such as ecoregions (Olson et al. 2000), and endemic bird areas (Stattersfield et al.
Site-scale conservation, although essential, will not alone ensure the long-term persistence of biodiversity (Soulé and Terborgh 1999).The overall goal of the KBA methodology is to suggest universal standards for selecting sites of global significance for conservation through the application of quantitative criteria.Such criteria should be easily and consistently applied across all biogeographic regions and taxonomic groups.We use the terms interchangeably to imply homogeneous units that can be delimited and, potentially, managed for conservation.
The KBA selection process uses four criteria, based on the presence of species for which site-scale conservation is appropriate: (1) globally threatened species, (2) restricted-range species, (3) congregations of species that concentrate at particular sites during some stage in their life cycle, and (4) biome-restricted species assemblages.
However, although the current network covers 11.5% of the terrestrial land surface, global assessments reveal large gaps in the existing network of protected areas in almost all regions, particularly in the tropics (Brooks et al. If biodiversity is to be protected, there is an urgent need to establish a similar methodology for the identification of site-based targets using quantitative criteria that, drawing on available information, can be applied consistently.