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On the basis of a review of the widely applied IBA concept and a number of regional KBA applications to date, we suggest provisional site-selection thresholds for refinement through a process of iterative testing on sufficiently large data sets.

Key biodiversity areas are globally important sites that are large enough or sufficiently interconnected to support viable populations of the species for which they are important (Bibby 1998).

National IBA directories have been published for 48 countries, with regional inventories produced for Europe (Heath and Evans 2000), the Middle East (Evans 1994), and Africa (Fishpool and Evans 2001) and currently under way for other regions.

Several projects have recently been developed to extend the IBA approach to other taxa.

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.

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Strategically targeted site conservation programs can tackle the main cause of extinctions by reducing the loss of natural habitats and of the species that they shelter (Bruner et al. It is therefore critical to identify those sites where globally important biodiversity must be conserved in the short term.Existing systems of protected areas are rarely designed to conserve biodiversity systematically, and they often fail to include all species for which site conservation is needed (Pressey 1994).Eleven years ago, IUCN (The World Conservation Union; IUCN 1993) advocated that at least 10% of the land area of each major terrestrial biome should be set aside for site conservation. Filling these gaps requires the establishment of explicit, measurable, and repeatable targets for biodiversity conservation (Rodrigues et al. Much effort in conservation assessment has been concentrated at the species level, leading to the emergence of quantitative and threshold-based criteria for the assessment of extinction risk as a basis for the IUCN Red List (IUCN 2001).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.

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