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FAO/UNEP/UN-Energy Bioenergy Decision Support Tool -
MODULE 5: Land Resources
especially the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the
Ramsar Convention on wetlands. A number of international
bodies have supported efforts to identify areas of biodiversity
and high conservation value, including the International Union for
Conservation of Nature (IUCN), UNEP, Conservation International
and WWF. Several tools have been developed through these
organisations and/or other partners to help in identifying locations
that are especially important for biological diversity, which are
briefy mentioned or cited below. On a global scale, conservation
scientists have used several different approaches to identify areas
of global importance for biodiversity conservation. Each approach
depends on measures of the distribution of particular components
of biodiversity, and many incorporate measures of threat (Brooks
et al. 2006). Among these global schemes are the following:
• Conservation International – Hotspots: areas of the world in
which there are large numbers of endemic plant species, and
where less than 30 percent of the natural habitat remains
(Mittermeier et al. 2004);
• WWF Global 200 ecoregions: the earth’s most biologically
distinct terrestrial and freshwater ecological regions, selected
for exceptional levels of biodiversity (Olson et al. 2001);
• Endemic Bird Areas (EBAs): areas where two or more bird
species with ranges smaller than 50 000 km2 co-occur
(Birdlife International 2008);
• WWF/IUCN Centres of Plant Diversity (CPDs): areas of key
signifcance for global plant biodiversity (WWF and IUCN
• Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE): sites considered to
be crucial for safeguarding the last remaining refuges of
Endangered or Critically Endangered species (Ricketts et al.
These global analyses provide only a crude assessment of
whether biodiversity may be an important issue for consideration
in developing a bioenergy project; they encompass large areas
of land and do not take account of the variation within them or of
biodiversity importance at other scales. They do not allow for the
identifcation of site-scale conservation targets. Some sites that
are globally important for biodiversity conservation may fall outside
of these broad priority regions.
Several other approaches provide insight into areas of high
biodiversity importance at scales that are more appropriate to
supporting decisions about bioenergy project development.
Firstly, protected areas that have already been set aside for
conservation of biological diversity should be avoided at all costs.
These include nationally designated parks, reserves, indigenous
and communal areas or other sites assigned a protected status
by national government. Also included are sites recognized under
international agreements such as the UNESCO World Heritage,
Ramsar and UNESCO Man-and-Biosphere Conventions, and
Internationally Protected Areas under the CBD. Information on the
locations of such sites are available from national authorities and
through the World Database of Protected Areas (WDPA: http://, jointly managed by UNEP-WCMC
and IUCN.
However, protected areas are not the only sites that are important
for biodiversity; bioenergy strategies and projects should use
other means of identifying areas important for biodiversity.
These include Key Biodiversity Areas (Eken et al. 2004), which
are defned using an approach that identifes important sites for
biodiversity, not just within broad regions of global priority, but in
all countries worldwide, and includes sites that have no formal
legal protection. They are based principally on the importance
of sites for maintaining populations of species that are of
concern, either because they are threatened or because they are
geographically concentrated. KBAs are identifed nationally using
simple, standard criteria, which cover:
• Globally threatened species that have been assessed
following the IUCN Red List criteria as having a high risk of
• Restricted-range species with small global distributions.
• Assemblages of species confned to a particular broad
habitat type, or biome.
• Congregations of species that gather in large numbers at
specifc sites during some stage in their life cycle.
KBAs incorporate information from a variety of sources and
biodiversity schemes:
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™;
• BirdLife International - Important Bird Areas;
• Plantlife International - Important Plant Areas;
IUCN’s Important Sites for Freshwater Biodiversity;
• Sites identifed by the Alliance for Zero Extinction;
Many organizations and governments are already collaborating to
identify key biodiversity areas across the world. KBAs have been
identifed in over 170 countries, and are continuously updated and
refned as new information becomes available from key sources
at national and international levels. A useful screening tool that
can be used and/or adapted to more specifc applications is the
International Biodiversity Assessment Tool (IBAT), which aims at
improved collection, update and management of biodiversity data
to support decisions affecting critical natural habitats (IBAT, 2010).
Though they are a very useful measure of some types of areas
of high importance for biodiversity, the strong focus on species
within the KBA criteria means that KBAs may not include areas
of high importance for unique ecosystems or for goods, services
and cultural values provided by biodiversity.
In order to identify such areas, a more locally focused and consul-
tative approach is needed, such as that developed for identifying
High Conservation Value (HCV) forests within forest concessions
and management units (FSC). High Conservation Values were
frst defned by the Forest Stewardship Council for use in forest
certifcation, but the concept is increasingly being used for other
purposes, including conservation and natural resource planning
and advocacy, landscape mapping and in the purchasing policies
of major companies. High conservation value forests (HCVF) are