Well-managed protected areas are essential to sustaining bird populations and reversing their decline. They are also a proven strategy for safeguarding biodiversity and are crucial in the fight against climate change. This conservation approach is not new to Audubon. Beginning in North America early last century, and with a Hemispheric perspective since the 1950s, Audubon has worked with partners (local NGOs, governments, multilateral institutions) and communities all over the Americas in the designation process of Important Bird Areas (IBAs) and supporting protected areas initiatives that effectively contribute to the conservation of birds and the places they live.
In the Bahamas, since 1959, Audubon has partnered with the Bahamas National Trust to protect the natural heritage of the islands. We have supported the creation of Joulter Cays National Park (2015), an important wintering area for 13 shorebird species, including the endangered Piping Plover, Red Knot, Semipalmated Plover, Short-billed Dowitcher, and wading birds like the Reddish Egret.
In Belize, Audubon has a long history of working with the Belize Audubon Society to safeguard and improve the management of four of the country’s most important protected areas. Our work with Belize Audubon Society aims to improve the management of 58,680 hectares (145,000 acres) of protected lands that support the Wood Thrush and many other migratory birds from the Atlantic Flyway as well as resident species.
In Mexico, Audubon and Pronatura Noreste have formed a partnership to conserve grassland birds in the Chihuahuan Desert Grasslands of Northern Mexico, which provide wintering habitat for 85 percent of the grassland species of birds that breed in the western Great Plains of the U.S. and Canada. Grasslands also play an essential part in the lives and livelihoods of ranching communities on both sides of the border.
In Panama, Audubon Americas and Panama Audubon are working to save 202,340 hectares (500,000 acres) of the Panama Bay wetlands from unsustainable development. The Panama Bay mangroves and mudflats support migratory shorebirds from across the hemisphere, including some 30 percent of the global population of Western Sandpiper. To date, we have helped to develop the first conservation action plan for the wetlands.
Audubon started working in Colombia in 2015 focusing on key coastal and forested sites in the country. Our efforts began on the Caribbean coast, which includes the highly threatened tropical dry-forest ecosystem as well as the forested flanks of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, a critical stopover and wintering area for migratory species.
We have expanded to the Central Andes, the major coffee production zone in Colombia, and to the Cauca Valley region, a strategic landscape in Audubon Americas` new business plan. Our aim is to bring bird-friendly practices to 1 million hectares (2,5 million acres) of productive lands, providing habitat and connectivity across landscapes that will benefit coastal and forest priority species such as the Canada Warbler, Cerulean Warbler, Golden-winged Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Reddish Egret, and Least Tern.
Further south, Audubon has worked in Chile for over 15 years, to protect migratory shorebirds and their habitats. In the Chiloé Archipelago, partnering with the Centro de Estudio y Conservación del Patrimonio Natural (CECPAN), conservation efforts have benefitted over 90 percent of the Pacific coast population of the Hudsonian Godwit and about 60 percent of Pacific coast Whimbrels that winter on Chiloé. More recently, with the support of the US Fish & Wildlife Service and The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Audubon helped secure the long-term conservation of some of these important sites for shorebirds and waterbirds through the purchase of strategic tracts of land in Pullao, Curaco de Vélez y Huildad.
Protected area coverage has increased steadily over the past decade, but substantial conservation target and area gaps remain in Latin America while large-scale habitat degradation along with alarming biodiversity loss are advancing rapidly throughout the region.
Conserva Aves is Audubon Americas' new approach for protecting and managing priority areas for bird conservation in Mexico, Panama, Colombia, and Chile. This initiative leverages the latest science, gives a systematic approach to conservation planning, and draws on the extensive experience in the region of Audubon and its partners - American Bird Conservancy, BirdLife International, and RedLAC - to drive a groundbreaking platform that will elevate conservation across the hemisphere over the next ten years.